Palm Oil Awareness
Palm Beach Zoo's Palm Oil Awareness Mission Statement: To make a difference for wild tigers and all wildlife affected by non-sustainable palm oil production and harvesting by inspiring people to act by providing them with information and tools that will allow them to make responsible consumer choices for the betterment of the environment. (Image Courtesy of Zoos Victoria)
Shop responsibly! Use this Palm Oil Shopping Guide when you go to the store.
Origin of the Palm Oil Crisis
- Supply and demand pressures are driving the production of palm oil up to an all-time high. Found in cookies, crackers, frozen dinners, shampoo, lotions, cosmetics, pet food, and many other products, palm oil is now the most widely produced edible oil. It is also found in a wide array of products sold in natural food stores, and it is being used as a possible fuel alternative.
- Millions of acres of rainforest in Borneo & Sumatra are cut down each year to plant more oil palm. After logging rainforest habitat, palm oil companies often use uncontrolled burning to clear the land or peat swamp. In 1997-98 a devastating fire killed almost 8,000 orangutans in Borneo.
- Instead of using already cleared land, some companies choose to cut down healthy rainforest. They gain added profits from the timber, and they can ignore the regulations that sustainable plantations abide by.
- The increased demand for palm oil is fueling destruction of the rainforest habitat of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, pushing those endangered species even closer to extinction. Estimates show that if something isn't done soon to stop the spread of palm oil plantations into the forests that harbor these orangutans, they will be extinct in ten to fifteen years.
- There are so many things you can do to help turn back the tide of this crisis and make a difference for wild orangutans.
What is Palm Oil?
- It is a form of edible vegetable oil obtained from the fruit of the African oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis).
- African oil palms originated in West Africa, but can flourish wherever heat and rainfall are abundant. The majority of all palm oil is grown and produced in Borneo and Sumatra, although this crop is expanding into Africa and South America.
- Palm oil plantations are NOT part of the rainforest. Palm oil is an introduced agricultural crop.
- Palm oil is the most widely produced edible oil.
- Over 44 million metric tons are produced in Indonesia and Malaysia per year (2009) and this is increasing.
- You probably eat and use palm oil every day. It is found in many foods, cosmetics and bath products. When you look for it on product labels it is also called palm kernel oil, palmitate and palmitic acid. A derivative of palm oil is stearic acid.
- Demand for palm oil is rapidly increasing because of recent trans-fat health concerns and bio-fuel development.
Where in the world is this happening?
- Borneo and Sumatra are islands in Southeast Asia.
- Three countries occupy parts of Borneo: Indonesia (the largest part), Malaysia and the small country of Brunei.
What is Being Done? YOU Can Make a Difference!
If you are concerned about the effects of NON-sustainable palm oil production on orangutan habitat, we encourage you to:
- Use your power as a consumer! Shop responsibly. Use this Palm Oil Shopping Guide when you go to the store. Support companies that have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
- Write to your favorite restaurants and companies. Let them know that you care about tigers and the environment, and that your concern is reflected in products you are willing to buy. Ask them to join the RSPO if they haven't done so already.
- Promote better labeling. Encourage RSPO companies to label products with a "Tiger Friendly" label, just like the "Dolphin Safe" tuna labeling. Ask them to indicate how much (%) of the palm oil is certified sustainable.
- Visit! Your tourist dollars make the rainforests worth more standing than cut down for plantations.
- Be a responsible wood and paper consumer.
- Ask for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood and lumber products.
- Use recycled household and office paper products (examples: paper towels, bathroom tissue, notebooks, stationary, and printer paper).
- Recycle paper and cardboard.
- Write to your local legislators and The President. Ask them not to explore palm oil as a biofuel option. Cutting down rainforests to grow palm oil is not a "green" substitute for gasoline.
- Write to Malaysian government officials. Ask them to preserve their precious natural resources. This is the only country in the world that has wild Malayan tigers!
Get involved today and remember; each person CAN make a difference!
Demand Certified Sustainable Palm Oil & Product Labeling
Make a Difference for Wild Tigers & All Wildlife.
For more information regarding the Palm Oil Crisis, please visit our friends at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.