The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) joined the battle to protect endangered orangutans from the fires and haze ravaging Southeast Asia today with a $100,000 USD contribution to support Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) projects in Borneo.
GRASP will direct the funds towards orangutan rescue and rehabilitation, fire-fighting, and habitat protection efforts already underway.
Fires set to clear land for agricultural development in Borneo earlier this year were whipped beyond control by El Niño meteorological conditions, resulting in the worst fire season since 1997 and the loss of an estimated one-third of the orangutans' forests. The resulting haze also blanketed large areas of Southeast Asia.
"The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil takes very seriously its commitment to endangered species and High Conservation Value habitat," said Darrel Webber, CEO of the RSPO. "Some might dismiss these fires as an annual occurrence. But the truth is this was a predictable catastrophe, and we believe it's a shared responsibility to solve the problem."
RSPO Principle 5.5 prohibits "land preparation by burning," in line with regional burning guidelines which require justification and prior authorization.
An estimated 70,000 orangutans remain in the wild, but the majority are found on Borneo. The fires shattered already fragmented populations and left orangutan rehabilitation centers overwhelmed by rescued apes.
"GRASP's partners have been on the frontlines, fighting fires and saving orangutans for months, and their effort is heroic," said Doug Cress, programme coordinator of GRASP. "But they need help. This support from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil comes at a crucial time, and is an important symbol of collaboration."
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which hosts the GRASP Secretariat, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with RSPO in 2014.
RSPO is a non-profit organization that was established in 2004 to promote the sustainable development of palm oil, a commodity found in approximately half of all items found in supermarkets. RSPO currently comprises more than 2,500 members from 75 countries, although most members work predominantly in Southeast Asia. For more, visitwww.rspo.org or contact [email protected].
GRASP is a unique alliance of 100 national governments, conservation organizations, research institutions, United nations agencies, and private companies committed to ensuring the long-term survival of great apes in Africa and Asia.