"Deforestation" is a buzzword in Sabah. While Malaysia has, to a certain extent, rebuffed the onward march of the palm oil plantations that have destroyed Indonesia, deforestation is still a massive issue, and not just for Sabah's orangutans. Many rare and endemic species are found here, including the proboscis monkey - found only in Borneo - as well as the sun bear, pygmy elephant and clouded leopard. To give a sense of the wealth of biodiversity found here, on average, three new species were discovered in Borneo's forests each month between 1994 and 2004. Many will have become extinct before we were even made aware of their existence.
Palm oil is seen as a one-size-fits-all miracle oil. As the cheapest vegetable oil on the market, it is used widely in food as well as in toiletries - and ironically, it is now touted as a "biofuel". While it may pollute less than its petroleum - and coal-based alternatives when burned, forest clearance and altered land use make up a phenomenal 80 percent of Indonesia's carbon emissions*. Worse, intense monocropping requires high chemical input, and the soil is rapidly exhausted... meaning that yet more forest must be cleared to make way for yet more plantations. Suddenly this "clean" fuel starts to look rather filthy.