Friday, November 15, 2013

Update from Indonesia on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Annual Conference

By Dina Bredahl and Tracey Gazibara

Batu Mblein Quarantine Center
After thirty-four hours of traveling, we arrived in Medan, Indonesia on Sunday morning, November 10.  Our reason for traveling half way around the world was to attend the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) annual conference along with over 600 delegates from countries all over the world.

Before beginning the conference on Tuesday, we were able to meet with Dr. Ian Singleton with Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) and visit Batu Mbelin quarantine center where nearly 50 orangutans are being cared for. Many of the orangutans have been confiscated as they were being held illegally as pets. We were excited to hear that several of the orangutans would be on their way to be re-released into the wild next week.

Dina, Darrel Webber and Tracey at the RSPO.
Our goal for this conference was to interact with other stakeholders to further our work with palm oil sustainability.  The keynote address given by Professor Tim Benton was titled The Challenge of Food Security in 2050: Can we do it Sustainably?  It was a detailed look at global climate change, population growth projections and how agriculture and deforestation now will affect our future dramatically.  It was very apparent that the success of the RSPO is critical on many levels. 

Group session at the RSPO conference.
The format of this conference was quite unconventional, open space technology was used to encourage anyone to take ‘ownership’ of an issue they cared about and invite any and all interested attendees to join the conversation.  We facilitated a discussion on ‘How can zoos positively transform the market?’ along with others from San Diego Zoo, Zoos Victoria and the Zoological Society of London.  We were happy to have representatives from the growers stakeholder group participate in our session to learn more about their needs.  We also joined in on other great topic discussions as well, and really learned a lot about the perspectives of others during this process.

Voting on resolutions at the RSPO.
We are getting ready for the next leg of our travels, visiting Besitang and Bukit Lawang to see RSPO certified and non-certified plantations, a reforestation site, and a successful eco-tourism location where we hope to see orangutans. A representative from OIC (Orangutan Information Centre) will be our guide.  We will be traveling with Adam Ringler of San Diego Zoo and Jacquie O’Brien of Zoos Victoria.  

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