Southeast Asia

A Battle of Land: Borneo vs. Palm Oil Plantations

Having been blissfully unaware myself until my recent trip to Southeast Asia, I now feel somewhat responsible to raise awareness of the harsh realities that Borneo are currently facing.

When flying onto the 3rd largest island in the world, it is blatant to see that what used to be endless, untouched jungle, is now starting to become overpowered by military-like rows of palm trees, saluting the food and beauty monopolies of the Western world.

IMG_1365It was only after talking to the international volunteers at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary that I learned of the true impact that these agricultural ‘factories’ are having on Malaysian and Indonesian wildlife.

One of the most frustrating things I unveiled is that in order to obtain farmland to plant palm trees, the government willingly sell the land to native farmers, who then set the forest ablaze and wait for it to disappear into a jungle graveyard.  It goes without saying that the thousands of species who have called these jungles their home for thousands of years, are given no warning to find somewhere new and unthinkable numbers of species are eradicated through this destructive method of deforestation.

This leads me on to the big problem.  Not only are indigenous populations being affected (which is obviously harder to monitor and report on, which is why I will say no more), but the magnificent species that have developed from this evolutionary powerhouse are tragically becoming endangered.




Many orangutans (ironically meaning “man of the forest” in Malay and Indonesian) depend entirely on rehabilitation centres, as the destruction of greedy farmers leaves thousands of new-borns orphaned and alone.  As intelligent animals, the orangutans pushed out of their homes often attempt to return at a later stage in their lives.  For any who trespass, a gun is used as the equivalent to a pesticide spray.









The Proboscis monkey, who didn’t even contemplate hurting me even when I took its snack from its hand, will realistically become extinct in the not too distant future if something isn’t done to control the ratio of palm oil plantations to natural habitats.  Their home on Borneo has been almost halved in recent years and they now rely on the sanctuaries put in place to keep them safe and fed.

The world’s tallest rainforest is in despair. I shudder at the thought of my grandchildren only knowing what these animals look like from the photos I have already taken of them, and never having the opportunity to breathe the same air and share the same land as them.

Don’t buy foods and beauty products that support the use palm oil from unethical plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

With thanks to:
– Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
– The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
– Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary


6 thoughts on “A Battle of Land: Borneo vs. Palm Oil Plantations

  1. Yes, Borneo and Sumatra are suffering an irreparable disaster. I visited the Sepilok rehabilitation station in 1988. We have unethical plantations (mostly soybean, sugar cane, maize, cotton) in Brazil too. They use a lot of pesticides and Monsanto seeds. The cerrado (Brazilian wooded savannas), extremely rich in biodiversity, is about 50% destroyed, in the name of development (or in the name of money?).


  2. It’s so sad that the change to these areas of Southeast Asia are so clearly visible as you fly over them- it had such a huge impact on me.
    I am a Hispanic Studies graduate and studied a lot about the Sertão and the problems that the indigenous communities are facing. It’s such a shame, but so out of control! I also spent time in Brazil last year but unfortunately didn’t have time to travel as far north as I wanted to. Obrigada for your comments 🙂


  3. Thanks for your comment Rebecca. If this post only raises awareness between a few in the world of blogging, then it’s done more good than not writing anything! Here’s hoping it can be sorted before it’s too late


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