Protecting apes and elephants
Given our tropical wood concessions in the Republic of Congo, and palm and rubber plantations in the Republic of Gabon, we are extremely mindful that we work alongside the habitats of an incredibly diverse and rich wildlife.
The total land area of the Republic of Gabon is 267,667 km2 and of this 88% is forested. Olam Palm Gabon will ultimately plant 500 km2 (50,000 ha) by 2017 while the Phase 1 planting target for Olam Rubber Gabon is 120 km2 (12,000 ha).
In supporting Gabon’s land use policy and recognising the highly sensitive equatorial flora and fauna of the region, we have worked at taking the lead in developing the RSPO New Planting Procedures in Gabon. We have set aside 61,000 ha for biodiversity and High Conservation Value (HCV) protection in Palm and, as a ‘first in the industry’ step, we have similarly set aside 17,000 ha of HCV forests and land bank in our Rubber project.
The identification and setting aside of HCV areas is undertaken with the help of recognised certification experts. Almost all of this HCV area is logged forest with a mix of secondary and old-growth species. These forests are relatively biodiverse, represent the best natural areas within our concession and provide connectivity to the adjacent landscape. They are home to the wild species found in Gabon, elephant, chimpanzee, gorilla and forest buffalo, as well as a host of lesser known protected, rare or endemic species.
We have therefore conducted extensive biodiversity surveys during our Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) and supplementary surveys during the start-up phase of operations to guide land use plans, zoning and management. Once developments are complete, these impacts will be monitored, tracked, and recorded every 3 to 5 years for better manage conservation objectives.
In 2015, Olam Palm Gabon added approximately 7,000 ha to conservation areas and we implemented a partnership with WWF and the Government of Gabon to prevent illegal hunting and enforce wildlife laws in our Mouila plantations. We aim to implement similar agreements elsewhere.
In addition for 2015, Dr Christopher Stewart, Head of Environment and Sustainability for Olam Gabon contributed a case study to a book by the Arcus Foundation: State of the Apes – Industrial Agriculture and Ape Conservation (see Chapter five).
The numbers of great apes (most notably Western Lowland gorillas and chimpanzees) near our concession areas are relatively sparse and include some family groups and individual apes. In State of the Apes Dr Stewart outlines the 6 pillars of our ape management plan:
(1) Allocate areas for intact habitat (HCV areas) for preservation
(2) Ensure robust baseline and ongoing monitoring protocols
(3) Require scheduling of land preparation to enable wildlife to move to HCV areas
(4) Implement protocols that mitigate potential for disease transmission between apes and humans
(5) Impose hunting controls and raise awareness among local communities
(6) Support the development of subsistence programmes to promote alternatives to hunting.
Apart from setting aside and managing the conservation spaces related to our plantations, the key success determinant is the education and creating awareness amongst the local communities of the importance and process of maintaining the sanctity of these sites. Eco guards manage the prevention of illegal logging and hunting in the conservation spaces. An environment manager and an HCV team at each site is dedicated to managing buffer zones and set-aside areas.
In March 2016 an article on MongaBay reviews out approach: Oil palm company takes a lead on sustainable agriculture in Gabon.
Republic of Congo
Our tropical wood concessions under Olam subsidiary Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), operate by harvesting trees from within natural forests. All of our active concession areas are FSC® certified* so there are rigorous stipulations regarding the number of trees that can be harvested per hectare from the forest. (A new concession granted in 2016 is targeting certification in 2018).
Since 1999 CIB has had a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Forestry and the World Conservation Society (WCS) to help prevent poaching. This was renewed in 2015.
CIB also helps to prevent poaching by bringing in protein and other food sources to be sold to the local community. In 2015 they brought in 209 zebu cattle (which equates to 32 tonnes of beef) and 33 tonnes of frozen meat and fish from Brazzaville.
* FSC® License numbers: CIB Kabo – FSC-C128941; CIB Pokola – FSC-C014998; CIB Loundoungo – FSC-C104637.
Next section: Preventing high carbon stock / preventing deforestation