Palm Oil has many uses. It is an essential ingredient in everyday products including snack foods, personal care products, cosmetics, and a range of pharmaceuticals. The palm plantation owners of Borneo are making huge profits from their labours. Meanwhile out in the jungle, or what is left of it, the animals are having a tough time, especially the pygmy elephants.
Speaking at Plimmerton Rotary on 13 September, Debbie Mair, a member of Hutt City Rotary Club and a champion for the wild life of Borneo, shared her passion for saving the elephants. “Through no fault of their own, their habitat has been slashed and burned so that now there are only about 1000 of them left in the whole of Borneo. They face imminent extinction, along with many other species of animals. And hardly anyone cares.”
But the elephants faced another threat as well. “Poachers working for Chinese companies regularly slaughter pygmy elephants because certain body parts are prized by the so called herbal medicine manufacturers in China, which is a huge industry.”
Enter the Rotary Action Group for Endangered Species, or RAGES. Headquartered in Sydney, this group is working hard to save the animals of Borneo. “The pygmy elephants are beautiful. They grow to only about two metres high. They are very special creatures. It is really sad that the conflict between them and humans is so devastating for these wonderful animals.”
But there is hope. None of the palm plantations have fences around them, which meant that elephants and other animals would sometimes graze on the succulent young palm oil plants. Persuading plantation owners to fence their properties was a major thrust for RAGES, along with rescuing young orphaned elephants whose parents had been slaughtered, and raising them in captivity.
“Another approach we are looking at is to ask senior Rotary people in China to start spreading the word that the healing properties of so called herbal medicines have no scientific basis. The medicines are not medicines at all, and have no positive effect on those who take them. If we can spread that message widely in China, then perhaps we can begin to curb the slaughter.”
Meantime, to learn more about the habits of Borneo’s pygmy elephants, RAGES is funding the cost of GPS tracking collars. ”These collars are placed around the neck of adult elephants so that we can see where they go and learn more about how we can help them.
“Basically this journey we are on to save the elephants consists of 1000 steps, and we are on about step 3 at the moment.”
To find out more about the work of RAGES and to see how you can help, please visit the Rotary Action Group for Endangered Species - RAGE. And if you, or someone you know, would like to donate in any way, you can visit Debbie's GiveaLittle page.
UN Youth Global Development Tour 2017
Maisy Bentley and her father Nathan joined us for dinner and Maisy spoke to us about next year’s tour.
Maisy is a student at Aotea College and was a contestant in our Secondary Schools Speech competition. She has been interested in international affairs for some time, and is active in the Youth Branch of UN New Zealand.
She is to be one of 22 delegates from New Zealand to the UN Youth Assembly early next year. On the way they will visit several European capitals and study various aspects of sustainable development.
Maisy is an accomplished speaker and will be a fine representative of New Zealand. We look forward to hearing from her again when she returns from New York.
Rotary Best Speaker Awards
Our event was covered in the August issue of Rotary Down Under. Here’s to next year!
Linda Parsons is on the membership list
Linda's contact details will be changing shortly but you can find her email address and mobile number in the Club Members' Directory in the Intranet. I'll let you know as soon as a new membership list is uploaded.
Future leaders honoured
Thanks to our collaboration with Porirua City Council, the Media Advisory and Media Release for the Primary School Leaderships Award held on 15 September were prepared by their Communications team. You can see both Press releases here. You will be able to read a full report on the event, together with professional photos next week.