The Palm Oil Crisis: A major problem for orangutans

The ZooTeen program, which began in 1993, gives young adults the opportunity to explore their interests in ecology and conservation. ZooTeens spend the summer at stations throughout the Zoo educating our visitors about Zoo animals and important environmental concepts. Isabella Fazio, a ZooTeen for several years, shares this blog post with us.

ZooTeen 3Hi! I’m Isabella Fazio, a 2nd year ZooTeen here at the Zoo. Last year, after I participated in the palm oil station, I learned about the biggest problem orangutans were facing in the wild: Deforestation. People cut down trees that orangutans called home in order to get a creamy, high-demand oil called palm oil.

After the trees are gone, palm oil plantations are then built where the beautiful jungles once were. Besides just destroying countless animal homes, the trees also release carbon dioxide into the sky, contributing to global climate change. But it isn’t all bad. At the palm oil station, I learned that more and more companies are beginning to grow their own palm oil on their own land which is called sustainable palm oil.

ZooTeen 2What we ZooTeens can do to show we care for orangutans and the environment is support companies that use sustainable palm oil. Right now you may be wondering how you can figure out if your favorite food has sustainable palm oil or not. Well, there are a few ways to tell.

  • Head to the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil’s Web site.
  • The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has a palm oil shopping guide on their Web site. Their list has a bunch of sustainable palm oil users and companies that promise to change their ways in a couple of years.
  • Use the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s app, if you have a smart phone. Just search “palm oil” and it will be the first app to come up. Also, it’s free! You can use the app to search for any product you are concerned about and it will tell you if it is orangutan friendly or not.
  • If these sources happen to tell you that your product is not orangutan friendly you can write or e-mail the company to stop using palm oil.

This DOES work. For a long time big companies like Nestle, Heinz and Nutella were using non-sustainable palm oil. But thanks to concerned people like us, the pressure was too much for the companies and they switched to sustainable palm oil.

Besides checking the label in your own home, SPREAD THE WORD! On August 1, to earn my Girl Scout Silver Award, I did my own project at the Seneca Park Zoo talking about palm oil to guests and passing out palm oil shopping guides. By the end of my project, I had talked to more than forty-six guests that day! Even if my message gets to one person, that one person could help make a difference for orangutans.


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