Expansion of palm oil production in Africa could pose a significant risk to the continent’s already endangered monkeys and apes as their habitats are also prime oil palm cultivation land, a new study finds.

Expansion of palm oil production in Africa could pose a significant risk to the continent’s already endangered monkeys and apes as their habitats are also prime oil palm cultivation land, a new study finds.

According to the study – published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – nearly 200 primate species live in Africa and all of the great apes were threatened by extinction, reported BBC on 14 August.

The situation that could be made worse by the introduction of large-scale oil palm plantations, such as those found in Southeast Asia, as palm oil cultivation represented an important source of income for many tropical countries but there were limited opportunities to reconcile it with primate conservation.

“We found that such areas of compromise are very rare throughout the continent (130,000ha) and that large-scale expansion of oil palm cultivation in Africa will have unavoidable, negative effects on primates,” the research team said.

To compare the available primate problem-free land to the area needed, BBC wrote that 53M ha would be needed by 2050 to satisfy global palm oil demand.

Due to the massive demand, many companies were looking to expand oil palm cultivation into Africa.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said that palm oil could not be replaced with other plant oils since these crops would require even more land and have lower yields than oil palm.

IUCN said that to reduce the environmental impact, palm oil should be produced more sustainably by avoiding deforestation and reducing the use of palm oil in non-food applications.

The organisation called for effective policies to be set up to protect native forests from clearing and for existing oil palm plantations to be managed in a way that reduced negative effects on biodiversity.

Consumers could also help by choosing products that did not contain palm oil or were produced from certified sustainable palm oil, IUCN said.