The palm oil business is booming. The demand for it is forecast to double by 2020. Palm oil is used in many products under 100 different names. It is used to make biodiesel and used in products such as shampoo, for example2.
Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the fruit of oil palms. In order to meet demand 1,160 square miles of oil palm plantations will be created every year for 20 years. This often requires destroying the existing, virgin, forest where many species live including the forest dwelling and tree dwelling wild cat species. The lose their habitat. Their prey loses their habitat. The result: ultimately no wild cat species in these areas.
The wild cat species affected are:
- clouded leopard
- fishing cat
- flat-headed cat – this species is in “the most trouble”1
- bay cat
- marbled cat
- leopard cat (this species is the only that adapts to living in the new plantations, preying on rats).
It isn’t only about the loss of the forest habitat. The remaining forest becomes isolated resulting in cats trapped in island habitats. This leads to inbreeding. Roads built to service the plantations invite wild cat hunters and poachers. Wild cats who do wander into plantations can be killed by workers. Plantations pollute the soil and water with chemicals and cause soil erosion. Forest fires (to clear forest) cause air pollution.
There is a lot of destruction in the booming business of palm oil production. To me the wild cat species are the most important. The most publicized and well known species to be harmed by this business is the forest dwelling orangutan. Slash and burn deforestation decimates orangutan numbers2. Try to avoid buying products that contain palm oil if it is possible.