When monkeying around is good

Macaques could be the solution to making Malaysia’s palm oil more sustainable.

Palm oil is Malaysia’s largest industrial crop and makes up five percent of the country’s GDP. As one of the leading producers of palm oil worldwide, you can be sure that plantation owners would love to maximise their crop yields as best as they can.

However, these plantations are also ideal habitats for animals such as the Southern pig-tailed macaques and rats, who eat or damage the fruit, causing losses in annual crop yield — to the distress of farmers.

The monkeys were perceived to be the bigger pest, as plantation owners thought their diets mostly consisted of palm fruit. They have now been enlightened thanks to recent observation reports by researchers: the primates are actually valuable because of their omnivorous nature.

Researchers had already known that the monkeys would catch and eat the rats, but the fact that they consumed rats in far larger quantities than previously thought was a pleasantly surprising finding. In fact, a group of macaques can consume some 3,135 rats annually! Annual losses of US$112 per hectare can therefore be mitigated with these macaques — a viable and effective form of biological pest control for plantation owners.

Further, the macaques were found to only damage annual crop yield by 0.56 percent, unlike the rats who would destroy upwards of 10 percent.

At present, the monkeys are labelled vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Researchers aim to change this. With these findings in hand, they are advocating the valuable presence of macaques on plantations and are calling for them to be protected so that all may benefit — palm oil crop can be maintained or increased sustainably, and the macaque populations can be kept safe.

It’s easy to see the negatives and overlook the long-term sustainable options, just like how macaques were thought to be a pest in plantations till research proved otherwise. At Eastspring Investments, we believe that sustainable investing is key to delivering quality long-term investment outcomes. Learn more.

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