Blog: Conservation Conversations with Jamie

Pesky Palm Oil Problems

Orangutans at Brookfield Zoo

Each summer the Interpretive Program Team at Brookfield Zoo has the pleasure of working with college students who intern in our program. This year the interns were asked to write a blog entry about an environmental topic close to them. This entry was written by Macy Andlinger.

Picture this: You’re in your home. It’s a Sunday morning. You smell pancakes. You have a kitten. You’re as happy as a clam, when suddenly, a bulldozer casually rams down your house. Lovely. You luckily get out in time with your whole family, but now you have no place to live! It turns out the locals wanted your home for room to plant palm trees to make a multitude of products.  (How polite of them.) Because of the actions of humans, this is the reality that animals like orangutans face.

Luckily, there is a superhero that shows up to save the orangutans (and you too, since your home was bulldozed…sorry.) That superhero’s name is RSPO. RSPO’s real name is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and they’re here to make sure that no other homes are destroyed for the sake of palm oil harvesting. RSPO makes sure that the palm oil comes from palm trees that were planted on farmland that didn’t have to be cleared of orangutan-habitat trees. In simpler terms, if you see the RSPO logo, the product it appears on did not make orangutans homeless so humans could live a lavish life.

Palm oil plantation

Here, have a nice heaping spoon of background knowledge. Palm oil is one of the most commonly used ingredients in our everyday lives. You can find it in makeup, food, soaps, even gasoline. Unfortunately, in order for it to be produced in mass quantities, forests need to be cleared to make room for palm tree plantations. I’ll give you 3 guesses as to who lives in these forests. I’ll wait for your guesses…

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I absolutely LOVE orangutans, and I don’t want to be part of the reason why it’s getting harder for them to survive, but I can’t stop eating, and obviously none of us would want me to stop using soap, so what can I do?” WELL, there are ways we can repent for our sins.

First, you can purchase any product with the RSPO logo on it, you’re making sure that the palm oil found in the product did not evict any orangutans. Second, you can find out more about palm oil and how it affects orangutans in Tropic World: Asia as well as the Fragile Kingdom: Rainforest, both of which are conveniently located at Brookfield Zoo! Third, if you’re still hungry for more info on palm oil and orangutans, we have some more facts on our website. So, if you want to be a fantastically superheroic citizen of Earth, you too can purchase sustainably harvested palm oil products. We CAN save these majestic beauties from the verge of extinction; just calmly put the unsustainable palm oil products on the ground, and back away slowly.
-Macy Andlinger

Posted: 10/12/2017 8:00:00 AM by Robert Sit

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