Stop destroying old forests, urges top primate expert Jane Goodall

Dr Jane Goodall says forest burning is killing the orangutans.

KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Jane Goodall, considered the world’s most renowned primate expert, said it is extremely difficult to assure anybody of sustainable palm oil production as the debate linking the industry to environmental destruction continues.

Goodall, however, has one answer to address the matter.

“For heaven’s sake let us not destroy any more old forests.

“Remove the new plantations on old forests and let the old forest come back, which it will if it has not been destroyed for too long,” she told a crowd of about 100 at a question-and-answer session.

Goodall also called for an end to forest burning, saying the practice was killing the orangutans and gibbons.

“We are so arrogant. How dare we say that just because we want palm oil, we are going to destroy the whole world for the orangutan families?”

In recent times, European countries have sought to curb the use of palm oil products as part of their efforts to fight deforestation.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad refuted claims that oil palm plantations are a major cause of deforestation, saying the crop is mainly planted on designated agricultural land.

In September, Reuters reported that sustainable palm oil accounts for about a fifth of global production, at an estimated 12.3 million tonnes per year.

Late last year, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the industry’s watchdog, adopted a stricter set of guidelines that included a ban on cutting down forests or converting peatland to oil palm plantations.

When asked about what was the most serious threat to the environment, Goodall said it was the climate crisis.

“Because it is affecting everybody everywhere.”

On a related topic, Goodall said it was important to help people understand that they needed the environment as humans are part of the ecosystem and destroying it would destroy the future of the next generation.

“We need to get that message across, that we need the natural world.”

Goodall had earlier presented the inaugural Roots and Shoots Malaysia Award to 36 young volunteers for their community and environmental work.

Roots and Shoots is a youth-led action programme founded by Goodall.