Palm oil

Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil, grown on the African oil palm tree that is taken from the palm fruit. Oil palms originate from parts of western Africa, but can grow wherever heat and rainfall are rich. Palm oil is bad because it is ruining the habitats of the Orangutan, Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sun Bear, Pygmy Elephant, Clouded Leopard and Proboscis Monkey. Unsustainable palm oil is produced by burning an area of oil palms and then collecting the fruit to make into palm oil. This destroys lots of land and most of its habitats. That is why many companies aren’t using palm oil in their products anymore. Sustainable palm oil is produced by poking a long stick at the fruit and letting it fall then putting it into a truck to take away and be produced into oil. Another way of producing sustainable palm oil is by planting your own trees and using the fruit off them that is the most sustainable way. More people are starting to collect it sustainably and that’s great but if everyone did it everyone would be happy. This industry is linked to major issues including climate change, habitat degradation, animal cruelty, deforestation and indigenous rights abuses in the countries were it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of palm oil plantations.

Palm oil is grown throughout Asia, North America, Africa and South America, with 55% of all palm oil globally produced and transferred from Malaysia and Indonesia; but most of the time not using sustainable methods. The world wildlife fund (WWF) have said that an area the same size as 300 football fields of rainforest is removed each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large amount of deforestation is causing extinction for many species. Findings show that if it all stays the same and palm oil is still produced unsustainably, species like the Orangutan could become extinct in the wild in the next 5-10 years and Sumatran Tigers only 3 years. Overall, 50 million tons of palm oil is made yearly, providing over 30% of the worlds vegetable oil production. In Countries such as Australia, Canada, England and United States, this unique vegetable oil is found in close to 40-50% of household items. Palm oil is used in a wide variety of products, including: shampoo, confectionary, cleaning agents, toothpaste, baked goods and washing detergents.


Impacts on the environment:

 A large amount of palm oil development occurs at the expense of biodiversity and ecosystems in countries were it is made. Because of this unsustainable development, one third of mammal species in Indonesia are becoming critically endangered and destroying their habitats. According to environmentalists the Orangutans, one animals of a particular importance, has become a well-known icon for deforestation in Sumatra and Borneo. In the last 20 years, over 90% of Orangutan’s habitats has been destroyed and is considered “An environmental emergency” by the UN. From this development an estimated 1000-5000 Orangutans are killed each year. The Orangutan plays a vital role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem. An example of this is the spread of rainforest seeds in Indonesia, many of which can only grow once passed through the gut of an orangutan, hence this animal is essential for the existence of the forest. Deforestation for palm oil production also contributes highly to climate change. The removal of the native forests often includes the burning of invaluable timber and remaining forest undergrowth, producing huge quantities of smoke into the atmosphere and making Indonesia the third largest green house gas producer in the world.

 Impacts on Animals:

There are over 300,000 different animals, many of which are killed, injured and displaced during deforestation found throughout the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra. In addition, palm oil development increases accessibility of animals to poachers and wildlife smugglers who capture and sell wildlife as pets, use them for medicinal purposes or kill them for their body parts. The damage of rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra is not only an environmental emergency, but a major animal crisis as well. Wildlife such as Orangutans have been found buried alive, shot, attacked with machetes and other weaponry. Government data has shown in the last two decades over 50,000 Orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil. This either happens during the deforestation process or after the animal enters a village or exiting palm oil plantation in search for food. The sad thing is that mother Orangutans get killed by poachers and have their babies taken to be sold or kept as pet or used as entertainment in wildlife tourism parks in countries such as Bali and Thailand. Road networks that are constructed to allow palm oil plantation workers and equipment access to the forest also increases accessibility of these areas to poachers that are looking for these types of animals. This allows poachers to comfortably drive in an area to sit and wait for their target rather than trek through inaccessible areas of the forest.



Palm oil free products

Jane Goodall  Institute


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