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why palm oil free?

text and images have been used with permisson of  

not all palm oil is bad - the problem arises when virgin rainforest is cleared to make way for oil palm plantations.

oil palms can be planted on land that is not forested.  instead, the majority of companies choose to first log virgin rainforest to make additional profit from selling the timber.

the clearing of rainforests poses the greatest threat to the survival of orangutans, sumatran tigers, asian rhinos and asian elephants.

deforestation also affects indigenous people, threatens biodiversity through the loss of animal and plant species, and fuels global warming.

the south east asian islands of borneo and sumatra are home to:- 13 primate species, 350 bird species, 150 reptile and amphibian species, 15,000 plant species, sumatran rhinos, sumatran tigers, orangutans, clouded leopards, asian tapirs, asian elephants, and thousands of other species.

all these species depend on south east asian rainforests in order to survive. when their homes are destroyed, unlike us, it is not as simple as moving somewhere else.  with the current rate of destruction (the equivalent of 300 rugby fields an hour are being destroyed) there is nowhere else for these animals to go. they perish slowly by starvation or they come into inevitable conflict with plantation owners as they look for food - and are either killed or sold illegally as pets.


orangutans in the wild

the wild population of bornean orangutans is optimistically estimated 30,000 - 40,000. there are about 7,000 Sumatran orangutans in the wild, making them one of the top 25 most endangered primates in the world.

orangutans give birth just once every 6 - 10 years, making them the world's slowest breeding animal. they are the only asian great ape and the largest arboreal mammal on earth.

sumatran tigers in the wild

critically endangered and only found on the island of sumatra, there are now fewer than 400 sumatran tigers left in the wild - leaving this species on a knife-edge fight for survival.

asian rhinos in the wild

there are three species of asian rhinoceros - all critically endangered.  the indian rhino is doing the best of the three species but is down to about 2,000 animals.  the sumatran rhino has only 300 or fewer individuals left.  sitting on the brink of extinction, the javan rhino is down to only 50-60 individuals.  already on the brink of extinction, any pressure from oil palm plantations expansion is likely to push these species over the edge. 

image used with permission of auckland zoo

asian elephants in the wild

elephants are in trouble throughout asia. total numbers are estimated at about 30,000 remaining in the wild. populations are fragmented and scattered throughout south east asia - i.e. thailand, malaysia, vietnam, myanmar, indonesia, sri lanka, nepal, bhutan, bangladesh, laos, cambodia, china and india. the trouble facing elephants now is that although overall numbers sound okay, elephants are rarely found in numbers needed to sustain future populations, and those remaining are increasingly coming into conflict with humans as agriculture infringes on wild habitat. the future for elephants is an uncertain one.

certified sustainable

there are some certified sustainable palm oil plantations, but only around 4% of the world's palm oil is certifiably sustainable and this 4% cannot be traced back to the plantation that produced it.  sustainable palm oil means rainforests have not been recently cleared and biodiversity has not been harmed.  currently, there is no truly sustainable palm oil available.

unfortunately, certified sustainable palm oil is more costly than other palm oil and many companies are choosing the cheaper option. demand is increasing at up to 10% every year, so it is up to consumers to put pressure on manufacturers to source sustainable alternatives, or prove they obtain their palm oil from truly certifiably sustainable sources.

at present, being a member of the ‘roundtable for sustainable palm oil’ (RSPO) - an industry led group, not an independent body - is still not a 100% guarantee that palm oil is from a sustainable source, but it's a start. palm oil is quick to grow, cheap to make, and cheap to buy. this causes devastating effects to the environment.

auckland zoo’s palm oil free shopping guide contains products known to be palm oil-free. they felt it more useful to identify products consumers could choose to buy rather than listing the many to avoid. they have broken the guide down into categories to make it easier to identify brands you like. it may take a little extra time to shop, but manufacturers will not change unless there is pressure from us as consumers.

contents and rhino image have been used with permission from ‘Auckland Zoo’