ATAAC | Australian Teens Against Animal Cruelty - Orangutan Crisis

Photo used with kind permission of Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation
Baby clings to dead mother

For millions of years, orangutans thrived in the once-vast forestlands of South
East Asia, possibly even existing as far North as Southern China. Today,
less than 1% of the species remains, and can now only be found in small,
secluded pockets of orangutan habitat on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.
There are two sub-species of orangutan remaining, the endangered
Bornean, with approximately 30,000 individuals, and the critically endangered
Sumatran, with less than 6,000.

Orangutans are the most intelligent species on earth after humans. They
have the ability to undo bolts, knocks, pick locks and even communicate with
humans via sign language. They share many of the same emotions as us,
have their own culture and share 97% of our DNA!

Orangutans reproduce more slowly than any other primate, with the female
producing a baby on average once every 7-8 years. Infants are dependent on
their mothers for 5-8 years, learning about survival in the forest. Orangutans
live for around 45 years in the wild, and a female will usually have no more
than 3 offspring in her lifetime. This means that orangutan populations grow
very slowly, and take a long time to recover from habitat disturbance and



Poaching and the illegal animal trade are contributing factors to the genocide
of this species; however, the number one threat to the survival of the
orangutan in the wild is deforestation for the development of palm oil.
Every hour, rainforest land equivalent to 300 football fields in size is
destroyed, burnt and replaced with palm oil plantations. To put it into
perspective - in Sumatra alone there is now more than 4 times as much land
cultivated with oil palms as there is orangutan habitat remaining.
This results in the death of an orangutan every 2 hours. These gentle apes
are often killed in the most inhumane ways; run over, set on fire, hacked with
machetes, shot and decapitated. The “lucky” ones, often babies, have their
mothers shot and they are then taken to be kept as pets, sold, used in the
entertainment industry or even used as prostitutes in Indonesian brothels.

In some cases, palm oil farming provides employment to locals in South East
Asia, however it often involves gross human rights violations and involves
dangerous labour under risky conditions. But in many cases, palm oil does the
opposite to providing money. It often robs indigenous communities who still
depend on the natural landscape of their livelihood, when they are displaced
from their land to make way for palm oil development.

This one vegetable oil is found in over 50% of all supermarket products
in Australia. Palm oil can be found in everything from baked goods,
confectionery and ice-cream, to body products, cosmetics and cleaning
agents. It can even be used in toothpaste, paint, printer ink and car fuel!


Why is palm oil so popular and widely used?
- High yielding vegetable oil crop
- Large economic benefit to Indonesia & Malaysia
- Cheap cost
- Diverse in its uses
- Acts as a preservative in some foods

Palm oil is not only having devastating impacts on wildlife, the environment
and indigenous communities, but also your health. Palm oil is comprised of
50% saturated fat, meaning it has the ability to increase cholesterol levels and
promote heart disease.

To conclude, there is currently a massive amount of degraded land available
for planting oil palms in Sumatra and Borneo, but palm oil companies can
make a quick profit when they cut down rainforests and sell the timber, so the
relentless deforestation continues.

We do not advocate a boycott of products containing palm oil, or companies
using palm oil in their products. However, the international community must
demand that oil palm concessions are not granted in forested areas, and that
our local retailers and consumer goods manufacturers either source their
palm oil from non-destructive plantations, or switch to an alternative ingredient
that isn’t abusing wildlife, the environment and indigenous communities.


You can visit our Anti-Palm Oil Ambassador’s educational website on palm
oil, to learn about it’s impacts, what products do/don’t contain palm oil, how to
detect palm oil on labels and much more!




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