Palm oil plantations are devastating the rainforests across Indonesia and Malaysia destroying the natural habitat of countless different species including elephants and tigers.
What is it?
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the fruit of oil palm trees. These oil palms are grown across the region of the equator but mostly in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Palm oil is used across the world as it is a very versatile product which can be found in practically every other product from food to cleaning products, makeup and toothpaste. You would easily find it in many of your household products and have probably used it today.
Palm oil production has increased considerably over the past twenty years as it is easy to produce and cheap to purchase. The industry employs hundreds of thousands of people around the world and it’s estimated that 570,000 people and producers export up to the equivalent of 22 billion Australian dollars of palm oil per annum.
Why should you avoid it?
The oil palms grow in low lying wet tropical areas – exactly where the rainforests grow. The plantations have robbed indigenous people of their land and livelihoods and the destruction of the rainforests has begun to cause climate change.
Its impact on animals
Our sister zoo, Paignton Zoo, is most concerned about the orang utan and the Sumatran tiger as they are only found in Sumatra and Borneo.
Orang utans are arboreal which means they live in trees so desperately need them in order to survive. They very rarely come down and can live to 45 years old. When they give birth their babies stay with mum for the first 7 years of their lives.
Zoologists believe if the deforestation continues at the same rate then orang utans will be extinct in the wild in six years and will only be found in reserves.
How can you make a difference?
At present palm oil can be described using a number of different terms so it can be difficult to identify within ingredients lists, however, we are pleased to announce that Paignton Zoo in conjunction with EAZA (the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) has successfully lobbied parliament to change the labelling requirements so that as of 2015 all products that contain palm oil will have to state ‘Palm Oil’ on their packaging.
At Living Coasts we endeavour to purchase products that do not contain palm oil and have worked with a number of suppliers to produce palm oil free products. For instance, Scottish company, Bronte supply us with palm oil free cookies. In addition, we source a lot of our food, such as cakes and fudge, from small local businesses so we know exactly where it comes from.
We are also continuing to lobby parliament to force UK companies to only purchase sustainably farmed palm oil in areas where it is already grown – rather than continuing to destroy the rainforests.
For further information about palm oil visit: saynotopalmoil.com
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