Research: Small room for compromise between oil palm cultivation and primate conservation in Africa

Eastern Gorilla Gorilla beringei

Research by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission found that although oil palm cultivation represents an important source of income for many tropical countries, its future expansion is a primary threat to tropical forests and biodiversity.

“Results warn that, consistent with the dramatic effects of #palmoil cultivation on #biodiversity in #Asia, reconciling a large-scale oil palm growth in Africa with #primate #conservation will be a great challenge” #Boycottpalmoil

In this context, and especially in regions where industrial palm oil production is still emerging, identifying “areas of compromise,” that is, areas with high productivity and low biodiversity importance, could be a unique opportunity to reconcile conservation and economic growth. The team applied this approach to Africa, by combining data on oil palm suitability with primate distribution, diversity, and vulnerability.

“We found that such areas of compromise are very rare throughout the continent (0.13 Mha), and that large-scale expansion of oil palm cultivation in Africa will have unavoidable, negative effects on primates.”

Small room for compromise between oil palm cultivation and primate conservation in Africa (2018) Giovanni Strona, Simon D. Stringer, Ghislain Vieilledent, et. al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2018, 115 (35) 8811-8816; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1804775115

“Despite growing awareness about its detrimental effects on tropical biodiversity, land conversion to palm oil continues to increase rapidly as a consequence of global demand, profitability, and the income opportunity it offers to producing countries.”

Small room for compromise between oil palm cultivation and primate conservation in Africa (2018) Giovanni Strona, Simon D. Stringer, Ghislain Vieilledent, et. al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2018, 115 (35) 8811-8816; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1804775115


Although most industrial oil palm plantations are located in Southeast Asia, it is argued that much of their future expansion will occur in Africa. The team assessed how this could affect the continent’s primates by combining information on oil palm suitability and current land use with primate distribution, diversity, and vulnerability.

They also quantified the potential impact of large-scale oil palm cultivation on primates in terms of range loss under different expansion scenarios taking into account future demand, oil palm suitability, human accessibility, carbon stock, and primate vulnerability.

Mountain Gorilla mum and baby
Mountain Gorilla mum and baby

They found a high overlap between areas of high oil palm suitability and areas of high conservation priority for primates. Overall, we found only a few small areas where oil palm could be cultivated in Africa with a low impact on primates (3.3 Mha, including all areas suitable for oil palm).



“These results warn that, consistent with the dramatic effects of palm oil cultivation on biodiversity in Southeast Asia, reconciling a large-scale development of oil palm in Africa with primate conservation will be a great challenge.”

Small room for compromise between oil palm cultivation and primate conservation in Africa (2018) Giovanni Strona, Simon D. Stringer, Ghislain Vieilledent, et. al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2018, 115 (35) 8811-8816; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1804775115

Small room for compromise between oil palm cultivation and primate conservation in Africa (2018) Giovanni Strona, Simon D. Stringer, Ghislain Vieilledent, et. al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2018, 115 (35) 8811-8816; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1804775115


Primatologist Dr Cleve Hicks warns about how palm oil is poised destroy primate populations in Africa and why he believes the #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife is the answer



Boycott the brands causing deforestation for palm oil, soy and meat by joining the #Boycott4Wildlife

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Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

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