Thursday, November 08, 2007

Palm Oil Lessons at the Zoo

It is a beautiful day today. I really need to finish up the work for my online class (have I mentioned that?!? LOL) so I called our regular babysitter. She has the kids at the zoo for the afternoon. The kids were really excited to go, and I was really excited to let them go!

There are lots of baby animals at the zoo right now. Three baby giraffes, four baby lions, a baby gorilla, and a baby orangutan. And can you believe that the zoo allows these animals to nurse in public?!? (sorry... had to get that in!)

Our zoo is also very active in conservation and other environmental issues. One issue that they are trying to bring more to the spotlight is the problems with palm oil. Do you know about the problems with palm oil? Here is what I found out.

Why is there a Palm Oil Crisis? The increased demand for palm oil – which is obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree and can be grown only in tropical environments – 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 is not done soon to stop the spread of palm oil plantations into the forests that harbor these orangutans, they will be extinct in ten years. Supply and demand pressures are driving the production of palm oil up to an all time high because of recent trans-fat health concerns and bio-fuel development. Palm oil is now the second most widely produced edible oil. Palm oil is found in cookies, crackers, shampoo, skin care and beauty products, in different varieties of pet food, and many other products. It is also found in a wide array of products sold in natural food stores.
The wild population of Bornean orangutans is estimated at 45,000-50,000. There are 15 times more deer in the state of Colorado alone than there are orangutans on Earth! There are about 7,300 Sumatran orangutans in the wild; they are on the list of top 25 most endangered primates in the world. Orangutans give birth once every 6 -10 years, the longest interbirth interval of any mammal! Orangutans are the only Asian great ape; they are the largest arboreal mammal on earth... and their babies are super cute! (not high on the conservation list, but they are really cute!)

Local People in Borneo and Sumatra
Millions of people in Borneo and Sumatra rely on the palm oil industry for their livelihood. That is one reason not to support a blanket boycott on all palm oil. The land for new plantations is often forcibly taken from indigenous people who traditionally owned the land, resulting in violent conflicts. Local people can and should be trained in environmentally sustainable agriculture, (including palm oil and other food sources) and other sustainable trades, crafts and professions.

YOU Can Help!
Read product labels at the store and find the labels that contain no palm oil OR labels that contain sustainable yield palm oil or palmitate. How will you know when Palm Oil is sustainable yield? Start with a Shopping Guide to Sustainable Yield Palm Oil Products

A great resource is the website for Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

So watch those labels and buy from companies that use sustainable palm oil.


Everyday Yogini said...

Why is palm oil so popular? Are there alternative oils that you can recommend that we look for in stuff? It's so interesting that when you fix one thing (like getting people to cut back on trans-fats) you end up tipping something else out of whack...

Hope you got lots done!

ames said...

Goodness, I had no idea! Palm oil is in tons of things too, like the creamer in the coffee I'm drinking right now (eesh!). I might be buying my creamer somewhere else from now on, thanks for the heads up!

There's a similar problem with Mahogany. It's super hard to farm so people are deforesting entire chunks of rainforest just to get at the few Mahogany trees in it. We always make efforts to use other woods in our furniture, even though Mahogany is *gorgeous*...