Why should you care about palm oil?
Malayan sun bears. Sumatran orangutans. Bornean orangutans. Sumatran tigers. Western lowland gorillas. Rhinoceros hornbills. Ring-tailed lemurs. Slender-snouted crocodiles. What do these animals have in common? If you guessed that these are all animals you can visit during a trip to Zoo Atlanta, you would be correct. However, they also share something a little more noteworthy. Each of these animals are affected in some way by the palm oil industry.
What is palm oil? Palm oil is a versatile vegetable oil found in a wide variety of everyday products. It can be found in food, cosmetics, cleaning products, toothpaste, and more. Although native to Africa, it can (and is) grown all over the world in habitats with temperate climates. Providing over 80% of the world’s supply, Malaysia and Indonesia are currently the largest palm oil producers.
Why should you care about the palm oil industry? Palm oil is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, and animal cruelty. Approximately 300 football fields of rainforests are cleared each hour for new palm oil plantations, leaving many animals with no good place to go. Sumatran orangutans could become extinct in the wild within the next 10 years, in large part due to habitat loss from the palm oil industry. Orangutans are seed dispersers and play a vital role in maintaining the health of their environment. Losing this species would greatly affect other flora and fauna found in the ecosystem.
Armed with this knowledge, it may seem that boycotting palm oil would be the best way to fight this problem. However, palm oil is a high yielding plant and cheap to grow. Companies would find an alternative vegetable oil that very likely would be even more detrimental to wildlife and wild places.
What can you do? You can become a sustainable shopper and only buy from companies using sustainably sourced palm oil. The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) established a set of environmental and social criteria companies must follow to become officially certified. These certified companies’ practices should help minimize negative impact of palm oil on the environment and communities. To find out which companies are RSPO certified, download the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping Guide app and use it when you shop.
With Halloween around the corner, this app will help you pick the best candy to pass out to trick-or-treaters!
Want to learn more?
Visit our Shop Sustainable Conservation Station every Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Here you can learn more about how to become a sustainable shopper and conservation hero!
Interpretive Programs Supervisor
(Photo by Morgan W.)