5 species in need of EU Due Diligence

EU Policy on Forest Products and Deforestation

Tropical forests are hotspots of biodiversity, containing at least two-thirds of all species on Earth. However, these forests, and the wildlife that call them home, are continually threatened by deforestation driven by agricultural production. While this threat is largely concentrated in specific areas of the world, such as the rainforests of Indonesia, the Congo Basin in Africa, and the Amazon, Cerrado, and Chaco biomes of South America, the products tied to deforestation are exported across the globe, including to the U.S. and Europe. In fact, between 1990 and 2008, 36% of all globally traded products linked with deforestation were imported to the EU.

In an effort to reduce the consumption of products linked with deforestation, the EU has proposed a new policy on forest products and deforestation. This proposed regulation aims to prevent products linked with deforestation from being placed on the EU market, and promote demand for products from supply chains that are deforestation-free. The public consultation period closed on December 10th, and the proposal for the regulation is expected to be adopted by the EU commission in the second quarter of 2021. 

So far, the specifics of the regulation have not been finalized, and a number of regulatory approaches are being considered by the commission, including a due diligence framework, a certification/labeling scheme, or an approach based on the EU IUU Regulation. However, a recommendations report was adopted by the EU Parliament on October 22, 2020, which calls for the regulation to include mandatory due diligence requirements on companies importing to the EU, regardless of their size or position along the value chain. The report also notes the need to regulate the import of commodities that are at the most risk of being tied to deforestation. These include beef, leather, soy, palm oil, and cocoa.

In an interview with Revolve, Delara Burkhardt, the MEP who drafted the adopted report, gave her reasoning for the necessity of an EU regulation on deforestation: 

When we drink coffee in Europe or eat chocolate, we cannot be sure that rainforests have not been destroyed to make way for agricultural land for the coffee, cocoa, or palm oil in it – or for the leather of the car seats we sit on. Because so far there are no rules in the EU on this.

Introducing commodity sourcing laws to prevent deforestation in the European Union’s supply chains will have immense positive ramifications for global forests and wildlife. Here are five species in need of such regulations to help protect them.

Golden Lion Tamarin
Wild sumatran tiger at rehabilitation facility
Two Lear's Mccaw
Borneo Bay Cat in captivity
Wild giant anteater
Golden lion tamarin
Golden Lion Tamarin

The golden lion tamarin is an endangered small primate endemic to the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. Only 1,400 mature individuals remain, largely due to deforestation driven by soy production and cattle ranching. Only 2% of its original habitat remains, and that area is fragmented.

A Golden Lion Tamarin, one of six primate species native to the Atlantic Forest. Credit: Bart van Dorp/Flickr

Sumatran Tiger

The Sumatran tiger is endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Its native habitat, Sumatran forests, have been shrinking due to conversion to palm oil plantations. As of 2012, only 618 individuals remained in the wild.

A wild Sumatran tiger being cared for at the Sumatran Tiger Rehabilitation Center. Credit: Ministry of Environment and Forestry Indonesia

Lear's Macaw
Lear's Mccaw

Lear’s Macaw, an endangered bird native to caatinga forests of eastern Brazil, is almost identical to the Hyacinth Macaw. Unlike the Hyacinth Macaw, however, only 1,200 individuals remain, in part due to the expansion of livestock pasture. Lear’s Macaws feed on Licurí Palms, which are often cut down to make room for agriculture or are trampled by grazing livestock.

Two Lear’s Macaws spotted in Canudos, Bahia, Brazil. Credit: Joao Quental/Flickr.

Borneo Bay Cat

The Borneo Bay Cat is a small, forest-dependent cat endemic to the island of Borneo. Forest cover has been dwindling on Borneo due to palm oil production, putting the Borneo Bay cat more and more at risk of extinction.

A Borneo Bay Cat in captivity. Bay Cats are rarely caught on film in the wild. Credit: Jim Sanderson/Flickr.

Giant Anteater

The Giant Anteater is listed as threatened by the IUCN. Much of their native habitat, the Brazilian Cerrado, has been converted to soybean plantations, and what is left is fragmented. Because of this, road deaths are becoming an increasing threat to giant anteaters.

A Giant Anteater at Parque Nacional da Serra da Canastra, MG, Brazil. Credit: Nortondefisis/Wikimedia Commons

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The threat of deforestation and habitat loss is not unique to the five species above; many more will be threatened as agricultural expansion continues. However, limiting the demand for products linked with deforestation will decrease the need to deforest more land for agriculture. The proposed EU regulation sends a strong signal that these products do not belong on shelves, and is a step in the right direction for protecting global wildlife.

Learn more about the National Wildlife Federation’s priorities for International Wildlife Conservation.