Palm oil threatens Borneo’s wild cats


Palm oil threatens Borneo‘s rarest cats

Jeremy Hance

November 04, 2009

Oil palm expansion is threatening Borneo’s rarest wild cats, reports a new study based on three years of fieldwork and more than 17,000 camera trap nights. Studying cats in five locations—each with different environments—in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, researchers found that four of five cat species are threatened by habitat loss due to palm oil plantations.

The groundbreaking study, undertaken by Jo Ross and Andrew Hearn with the UK’s Global Canopy Program‘s Bornean Wild Cat and Clouded Leopard Project, has uncovered some of the first data on Borneo’s wild cats. The five cats species in Borneo include the Sunda clouded leopard, the bay cat, the marbled cat, the leopard cat, and the flat-headed cat.

“Sabah’s five species of wild cat are a special conservation treasure, and this study has made a tremendous contribution to knowledge about them,” Director of the WildCRU Professor David Macdonald said. Having worked with wild cats around the world, MacDonald is chairing a workshop in Sabah with various stakeholders to discuss conservation measures to protect the island’s cats.

Ross and Hearn discovered that Borneo’s cats were present in both primary forests and recently logged over forest, yet only one of the five cat species—the leopard cat—utilizes palm oil plantations. The researchers say that their findings should give special emphasis to keeping remaining forests—even those recently logged—free from further palm oil expansion.

The researchers also succeeded in estimating population densities for the Sunda clouded leopard using camera traps, as well as radio collaring and tracking an individual clouded leopard. The Sunda clouded leopard, which is endemic to Borneo and Sumatra, has only recently been declared a distinct species from the mainland clouded leopard.

Ross and Hearn have also taken the first photographs of the elusive bay cat in Sabah, and have recorded the world’s only video of the cat. Both the Sunda clouded leopard and the bay cat are classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

In Pictures: rare cats of Borneo: here.

Flat-headed cat: here.

Bay cat: here.

Meet the Cincinnati Zoo’s newest little Arabian Sand Cat kittens, who just debuted to the public today: here.

Oil palm plantations support fewer ant species than rainforest: here.

March 17, 2010 — This flat-headed cat is one of the most elusive felines on the planet, and may soon be extinct. A native of southeast Asia, the cat, Prionailurus planiceps, is threatened by deforestation. About 70 percent of its natural habitat has already been cleared to make way for plantations, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS One: here.

Caught on camera: Borneo’s mysterious bay cat: here.

Large bay cat so rare it has only been found 12 times is caught on camera in Borneo rainforest: here.

Court Voids Malaysian Palm Oil Giant’s Leases on Native Lands: here.

August 2010: A new Greenpeace investigation into the operations of Sinar Mas, one the most notorious destroyers of Indonesia’s rainforests, reveals how it is continuing to break its own environmental commitments on protecting forests and peatland: here.

October 2010: In response to the an audit conducted for the Sinar Mas Group‘s paper arm, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), Greenpeace International has revealed basic errors by the auditors, used to distract attention from the fact that APP continues to source timber from rainforest destruction: here.

Fraud allegations against Indonesian palm oil giant widen, tarnishing auditors and sustainable palm oil: here.

Don’t Let Cargill Profit from Slave or Child Labor in Palm Oil: here.

January 2013: Indonesia’s Minister of Agriculture Suswono has praised sustainable palm oil practice in Dosan village, and says this initiative is a perfect example of the way large palm oil producers can remain profitable without further destroying the forests: here.

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 100 – Pallas’ Cat: here.


26 thoughts on “Palm oil threatens Borneo’s wild cats

  1. Dear colleagues,
    We are forwarding this alert from our Germany colleagues at Rettet den Regenwald. They report on scandalous behavior in regards to oil palm and rainforests by the European Union and ask you to take action. Please make sure you have also sent EI’s PNG rainforest alert at:

    Dear friends,

    A leaked draft EU document shows that the Commission would like to rename palm oil plantations as “forest” in order that biodiesel from palm oil plantations can still meet EU biofuels sustainability criteria. Palm oil expansion is a major cause of tropical rainforest destruction and biodiesel from palm oil can easily cause more greenhouse gas emissions that the fossil fuel it is meant to replace. Please email the new energy and environment Commissioners and ask them to amend this document to give a clear message to member states that biodiesel from palm oil has no role to play in a sustainable EU energy mix.

    The alert can be found at

    Many thanks.

    Best regards,

    Reinhard Behrend
    Rettet den Regenwald e. V.
    Friedhofsweg 28
    22337 Hamburg


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