ORANGUTANS FUTURE, OR LACK OF IT, DEPENDS ON YOUR SHOPPING HABITS
Can your shopping list mean life or death to the orangutan?
It is fairly common to see people in supermarkets checking product labels for harmful additives, allergens, and trans-fat content. Now it may also become routine for shoppers to check labels in order to avoid palm oil, from undisclosed and unsustainable sources - an ingredient which can mean the difference between life and death to the orangutan. In fact, it is not only the orangutans’ lives which hang in the balance, but the very survival of remaining forests in Indonesia and Malaysia, and all the magnificent rainforest animals which depend on the forests’ existence.
Palm oil, often labeled as vegetable oil, can be found in thousands of popular brands of ice-cream, chocolate, biscuits, potato chips, margarine, toothpaste, soap, detergents and cosmetics. And when we purchase these brands, rather than the sustainable alternative brands, we, without knowing it, are “fueling the phenomenal growth in demand for a crop that is leaving a trail of destruction in its wake”.
“The rate of loss of orangutans has never been greater than in the last three years, and oil-palm plantations are mostly to blame. We are facing a silent massacre, taking place far from where people can see what is going on. We need international co-operation now to address this crisis.” Dr Willie Smits, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation’s Founder/Chairman
“Despite an abundance of degraded land available for plantations, many palm oil companies are deliberately targeting forest areas for conversion. They prefer to first cut down the forests, as this provides the companies with an immediate source of income from logging before a single palm tree is planted. Palm oil companies are also responsible for many fires that plague the region annually. Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) a leading environmental group, said in September 2005, it had reported 196 companies to the Indonesian Minister of Environment for allegedly clearing their land through large-scale open burning in Sumatra and Kalimantan. According to WALHI many of the 196 companies were repeat offenders.”
“As the forest is cleared, orangutans facing starvation, desperately seeking food, are seen as agricultural pests. Plantation owners often put bounties on the orangutans head and plantation workers often show no mercy. Orangutans are viciously attacked and tortured before being killed. Most common orangutan deaths involve being attacked by machete, buried alive or set on fire. Orangutan babies are often put into small cages and sold as pets. One such “pet” was sold to a nightclub where she was chained by her ankles to the wall, laying hairless in a darkened room on a mattress for the “amusement” of patrons. BOS Foundation tried to free “Pony” for years.
Despite being threatened with guns and machetes BOS’s persistence paid off. With the help of 30 armed guards, Pony was freed to a sanctuary. She is still timid and frightened of people, but now, with a healthy coat of fur, she is hopefully safe to live out her life in peace, thanks to the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation.
Over 5 million hectares of the orangutans rainforest habitat has already been cleared for palm oil production. It is estimated that at least 5,000 orangutans are killed each year due to this industry, along with countless other animals including sun bears and other primates.
If you would like to become part of the solution to this problem, please help the BOS Foundation in writing to various companies which produce or supply products that contain, or may contain, palm oil for their assurance and evidence that the palm oil used in the products they produce, or sell, comes from non-destructive sources. Please send a copy of your replies to the BOS Foundation.
For more information on how you can help stop the extermination of the orangutan and the devastation of rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia, please click on the links listed below. And remember, when you are buying products, your consumer dollar means life or death to the orangutan and other rainforest wildlife.
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS Foundation) Australia
Organic Consumers Association - Campaigning for Food Safety, Organic Agriculture, Fair Trade and Sustainability
Adopt an Orphan Orangutan
Australian Orangutan Project
What you can do?
* Write to your Federal Member and demand that they legislate to make Palm Oil labeling mandatory.
* Write to the Malaysian and Indonesian Embassies and ask them what they are doing to stop Palm Oil from destroying Orangutan habitat.
* Write to any food supplier that lists VEGETABLE OIL as an ingredient and ask them if they use Palm Oil. If so what are they doing to ensure that it doesn't affect Orangutans habitat.
* Donate to an organization that rescues and protects orangutans (some links listed above)
* Adopt an orphan orangutan