Wild cat habitats constantly eroded by human activity

This was written in 2010. This is a brief 2022 introduction and I have made some additions. Things have deteriorated since 2010. The general trend is the continued destruction of wild cat habitats particularly for cats living in forests. It is a very depressing thought for anyone concerned with conservation and the protection of the planet. In 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a big setback to conservation as it has diverted attention and resources away from tackling climate change. The social structure of world society is not advancing. It is deteriorating. George Soros, the 91-year-old billionaire financier believes, like many that World War III is a distinct possibility thanks to Putin. If that happens, we can all forget about wild cat habitat. It’ll be game over and humans will not be concerned about wildlife conservation but their conservation 😎.

Wild cat habitats are under threat by ever expanding human activity and of all the habitats the one which is perhaps under the most threat is the forest. And there are a good number of wild cats that live in the forest. Some live in trees. I’d like to look at that aspect of the demise of the wild cat and how through business callousness we are ridding the world of some of our most precious assets.

Peruvian Ocelot Caught by Camera Trap
Peruvian Ocelot Caught by Camera Trap
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Palm Oil – one reason for deforestation – a classic example

Deforestation for palm oil production in Papua
Deforestation for palm oil production in Papua. Image in public domain.

We love the car or most of us do. But it has caused a massive amount of chemical and noise pollution. In order to go on fuelling our cars the big international petrochemical companies are finding other ways than petrol (gas) or diesel to power cars. The current flavour of the month is palm oil (2010), which is added to diesel fuel. Palm oil has other uses too such as a component in food and as cooking oil. Update: things have changed: we are going to EVs. But palm oil is still a massive destroyer of forest.

Palm oil deforestation
Palm oil deforestation. Image in public domain.

Rainforests are being destroyed to make palm oil, which is an alternative to diesel (2010). At 2009, Indonesia and Malaysia produce about 87% of global demand. These are counties where there is rainforest. Some large petrochemical companies do not check on previous land use. So they disregard the fact that forest has been cut down to make way for oil palms. Palm oil is an edible plant oil derived from the fruit and kernels (seeds) of the oil palm.

It is meant to be good for the globe but the net result seems to be the opposite. Burning forest (to make way for palm oil) means CO² emissions. 20% of CO² emissions comes from deforestation in the tropics (The Times). I don’t think the equation as to whether palm oil has a net benefit to the world in relation to CO² emissions has been worked out.

Palm oil production has grown rapidly to meet demand over the past 50 years. The world was producing only 2 million tonnes of palm oil in 1970. It is 35 times higher at 71 million tonnes in 2018. The graph below tells the story. The statista.com website tells me that current world palm oil production is 75.5 million tonnes. The leading palm oil producer is Indonesia. The problem is that the natural rainforests exist because of a suitable climate and that climate is also suitable for palm oil monoculture cultivations.

For example, a global study found that in south-east Asia 45% of oil palm plantations came from areas that were forests in 1989. One statistic indicates that palm oil production has contributed to an estimated 5% of tropical deforestation in tropical areas. There are many other reasons for deforestation including simply chopping down trees to make toilet paper!

Palm oil can help to cut greenhouse gases if it is produced from sustainable sources which is often not the case at present. “Only 15% of palm comes from plantations that meet any kind of environmental standard”

And this ignores the enormous matter of the biodiversity that the rainforests bring to the world and for me the matter of the loss of the wild cat. Yes, they are almost forgotten in all of this. But a good number live in rainforests in Asia, Central America, South America and Africa where deforestation takes place to grow palm oil. These are countries where wild cats live in the forest. Here is a selection:

African Golden Cat

A large part of the African golden cat geographic range covers areas where palm oil is grown with associated deforestation. Some of the flags below spell out the deforestation of the African golden cat’s habitat. See a bigger map and more on the range of this cat here: African Golden Cat Geographical Range.

Clouded Leopard

The range for this cat includes Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. All these countries manufacture palm oil with associated deforestation (on a massive and unprecedented level in Indonesia for example).

CountryProduction of Palm Oil 2007
China0.2 m tonnes
Thailand1 m tonnes
Malaysia15.8 m tonnes
Indonesia16.9 m tonnes

The clouded leopard is exclusively arboreal. It lives in the forest. See more here: Clouded Leopard Range and here: Clouded Leopard.

Sumatran Tiger

This fine wild cat is at deaths door in the wild due to rampant deforestation in Sumatra. See Sumatran Tiger.

Bornean Bay Cat

A small, little known wild cat that lives in the rainforests on the island of Borneo. Three countries have a piece of Borneo: Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Malaysia and Indonesia we know are the biggest producers of palm oil and Borneo is the world’s third largest island. It was once covered by forests but that is no longer the case and deforestation is rapid. The Borneo Bay cat’s survival is threatened. See Bornean Bay Cat and Bornean Bay Cat Range.

Asiatic Golden Cat

Another small wild cat whose habitat happens to be in Asia where there were lots of forest and where logging is destroying this cat’s habitat by the day. See Asiatic Golden cat Range and Asian Golden cat.

Leopard Cat

Otherwise called the Asian Leopard Cat. Its habitat is forests in Asia.

Flat Headed Cat

Another Asian cat that is affected by palm oil plantations but seems to have adapted to live in them. See Flat Headed Cat

Jungle Cat

In respect of palm oil production this cat may be affected living as it does in China (amongst other countries) and in jungle (amongst other habitats). See Jungle Cat Range.

Central & South America

If Asia is the region of greatest production of palm oil (and arguably the region of greatest disregard for the effects of its actions on wildlife) another area of high levels of deforestation is Central and South America, part of a continent where a number of wild cats live and wildcat habitats are being destroyed daily.

The countries below produce palm oil and have rainforest. Rainforest is primary forest (ancient forest) that we will not get back:

Country (region)Palm Oil Production 2007 – tonnesWild Cats Affected due to loss of wildcat habitats
Guatemala (Central America)0.1 millionPuma, Jaguarundi, Margay, Jaguar, Ocelot,
Honduras (Central America)0.2 mPuma, Jaguar, Ocelot, Margay
Costa Rica0.2 tonPuma, Jaguar, Ocelot, Margay
Colombia0.8 mMargay, Jaguarundi, Puma, Jaguar, Oncilla, Ocelot
Ecuador0.3 mMargay, Jaguarundi, Puma, Jaguar, Oncilla, Ocelot
Brazil0.2 mOncilla, Puma, Jaguarundi, Margay, Jaguar, Ocelot

Note: the list of cats may not be complete but I hope the message is conveyed. Palm oil production has potential benefits but produced in the unsustainable way in which it currently is, is simply madness and the wild cat, my area of particular interest, is suffering terribly as a consequence through loss of wild cat habitats worldwide and not just through deforestation. The general expansion of humankind through population growth has a profound and permanent effect on wild cat habitats of any sort. The fragmentation of wild cat habitats and the loss of wild cat habitats is the single biggest cause of the gradual extirpation of the wild cat worldwide I would argue.

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