Addressing the interplay between agribusiness investments and ape conservation

Recent years have witnessed a new wave of large scale acquisitions for agribusiness investments in Africa and Asia. Countries that house a large proportion of the world's biodiversity and ape habitats and populations have lost areas of high biodiversity land to commercial agriculture. Despite much effort at local, national and global levels, evidence on the exact scale, location and coverage of agribusiness investments remains patchy and often unreliable.

2014 – 2017

Philippine Sutz, Senior researcher

Palm oil plantations are destroying the habitat of orangutans in Borneo. Multinationals say they are committed to sustainable production but deforestation, road building and land clearing are continuing (Photo: Seb Ruiz via Creative Commons)

Commercial agriculture is impacting ape habitats in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Cameroon, Uganda, Myanmar and Laos.

This three-year project explores and enhances the evidence base on the interplay between agribusiness investments and effective ape conservation, and on the opportunities and constraints reflected in national and international law. It also develops a longer-term strategy for effective use of legal tools to protect apes and ape habitats.

This includes ways to promote policy reform and mechanisms to promote effective compliance with, and enforcement of, national legislation in home and host states.

The project involves in-country research and policy engagement in Cameroon and Borneo.


Addressing the impact of large-scale oil palm plantations on orangutan conservation in Borneo: a spatial, legal and political economy analysis, Holly Jonas, Nicola K Abram, Marc Ancrenaz (2017), IIED Research report

Assessing and addressing the impact of large-scale land acquisitions on ape conservation: Borneo case study, Nicola K Abram, Sophia Kiyoko Nakano, Susan Lusiana, Jamie Faselt (2017), Research report

Orangutan, oil palm and RSPO: recognising the importance of the threatened forests of the Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, Nicola K Abram, Marc Ancrenaz (2017), Research report

Further Resources:

Of pongos and palms: when the best-laid plans go awry, Holly Jonas, Marc Ancrenaz, Nicola K Abram (2017) Borneo Futures, Multimedia story

Seeing the forest for the trees: five strategies to save orangutans in oil palm landscapes, Holly Jonas, Marc Ancrenaz, Nicola K Abram (2017) Borneo Futures, Multimedia story

Legal Frameworks at the Interface between Industrial Agriculture and Ape Conservation, Lorenzo Cotula, Giedre Jokubauskaite, Philippine Sutz and Ian Singleton (2015), chapter in State of the Apes 2015: Industrial Agriculture and Ape Conservation, Cambridge University Press

Arcus Forum: Farming for the Future (2015) (event video)


The Arcus Foundation


Philippine Sutz (, senior researcher, Natural Resources research group