The Bornean Orangutan joined the Sumatran Orangutan in 2019 being officially listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and faces extinction in the wild within ten years.(1)
Highly intelligent, orangutans share 96.4% DNA with humans, yet humans are quickly destroying their habitats by burning tens of millions of acres of rainforest to make way for palm oil production.
According to WWF Orangutans are "gardeners" of the forest, playing a vital role in seed dispersal in their habitats. They live in tropical forests and prefer forest in river valleys and floodplains of their respective islands. Orangutans' extremely low reproductive rate makes their populations highly vulnerable. Females give birth to one infant at a time about every 3-5 years, so these species can take a long time to recover from population declines.
WWF goes on to say you can still buy palm oil but ensure it is ‘RSPO’ certified sustainable palm oil, however Greenpeace says that UK consumers are being misled by this labelling and that ‘members of the industry body responsible for the ‘certified sustainable palm oil’ label have been at the centre of the 2019 Indonesia fires crisis’ (3)
What can we do about it? Dramatically reduce or stop buying products with palm oil. Approximately half of all products we use and eat contain palm oil – soap, shampoo, lipstick, margarines, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, bread, nut butters, ice-cream, and ready meals – check the labels.
Did you know that all of Iceland’s products are palm oil free? (that’s the supermarket, not the country!). and here’s a link to The Ethical Consumer which has really helpful lists of alternative products which contain no palm oil. My personal favourites are Naturli’ vegan spread and baking block, the Lite Company chocolate (plain, orange and mint are vegan), and Rhythm108 biscuits and confectionary.
Palm oil production is having a devastating impact on the climate. We'll be working on raising awareness about palm oil and urging the Prime Minister to address the problem at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November.