Corruption, Organised Crime and Species Extinction in South East Asia

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This paper focuses on orangutans as an example of species which are being driven to extinction by a combination of corruption, greed, and organised criminality. It explores the opportunities for criminal networks that are created by this environment. Orangutans are as a “keystone” or “indicator species” or “barometers of the well-being of the forest. Declining orangutan populations are a sign that the forest and all that live in it are in trouble” and it is likely that at current rates all three orangutan species will be extinct within 20 years.
The paper is divided into four sections. The first discusses the habitat requirements and threats to orangutans. One of the factors exacerbating the decline of orangutans is habitat decline, specifically the removal of rainforest to clear the land for agricultures, industrial and residential purposes. One of the agricultural products which is regarded as being responsible for this habitat loss is palm oil. The second section therefore discusses the growth in palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil is an edible oil derived from the fruit of several species of palm trees. It has many uses, from cosmetics to food to biofuels. It is cheap to produce, the most efficient source of vegetable oil, and is “in about half of all packaged products sold in the supermarket” . The land which is suitable for plantations is the same as land suitable for rainforests, prompting the wholesale clearance of rainforest habitat so that palms can be planted. The third section covers the threats posed to habitat and species protection by political, corporate and criminal corruption. It proposes a model demonstrating the potential for corruption in the life cycle of a palm oil plantation between public officials, criminal groups and corporations. Finally, a series of recommendations is made for ways to avoid the over-exploitation of habits crucial to the survival of orangutans and other endangered species.
The paper concludes that unless the measures in place to control corruption are improved, and a moratorium is imposed on all new palm oil plantations, the inevitable consequence is widespread species extinction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Resolution Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


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