The Palm Oil Industry and What It’s Doing to Orangutans

Millions of hectares are lost each year due to this Industry. So In this environmental issues research assignment, I will be looking at the palm oil plantations and what impact they have to the orangutan population, and to see if we are actually doing anything about this. My three focus questions are: 1. How do the orange-tans’ suffer for palm oil plantations? 2. Why do we continue to destroy the orange-tans’ environment with palm oil plantations? 3. Are there any alternatives to using palm 011, and If there Is, are we doing anything about it?

Focus Question one How do the orange-tans’ suffer for palm oil plantations? Once roaming the whole of Asia, the orangutan population has now been reduced to Borneo, in Malaysia, and Sumatra. These two countries produce 80% of the world’s palm oil! There are two types of orangutans. Pong Pegasus (Borne) which is endangered and has around 15,000 orangutans, and Pong babble (Sumatra) which Is critically endangered and has fewer than 3,500 orangutans left. This Is because their habitat Is being destroyed and they have nowhere to live or to find food, so they ii.

This map shows the rainforest’s in Borneo, and as you can see since the sass, the rainforest’s has declined a lot. This is largely because of palm oil. Indonesia alone converts 3,400 square kilometers of forest Into oil palm annually. That’s 54 rugby fields every hour! And In 2006, the land area of palm oil plantations was approximately 42,000 square miles, and the 2007 united Nations Environment Programmer (UNEVEN) report said that if the palm oil industry continues to destroy rainforest’s so rapidly, most of the orangutans’ forest might be destroyed by 2022.

Not only do the orangutans’ have no habitat to live in, or to find food, but over 5000 orangutans are killed or captured each year primarily when they enter palm oil plantations looking for their home or when mothers try to Focus Question two Because the orangutans have nowhere to live, they often go back to the palm oil plantations, or go into town, and people either kill them or catch them and treat them as pets, or end up in Asian circuses or zoos. They live in very poor conditions, their enclosures getting littered with rubbish, and often, they consume the litter.

This is to a life for an intelligent mammal. They share 96. 4%, having opposable thumbs, and sticking with their mother until at least 6 years old, and even then staying close to her. Scientists have even seen orangutans use tools’ (sticks, rocks etc. ) to open things! So why do we still destroy the orangutans lives? This leads me to my second focus question….. Why do we continue to destroy the orange-tans’ environment with palm oil plantations? 30 years ago, palm oil was never in such a high demand as it is today, so why do manufactures continue to use it?

In fact, palm oil is used in over 50% of all reduces, including margarine, cereals, crisps, sweets, baked goods, soaps, washing powders and cosmetics. However you may never have heard of palm oil as companies hide the name palm oil, naming it Vegetable oil’ or over 170 different names! Well, let’s look at the perspective of a palm oil industry. Firstly, apart from the fact that it is a major contribution to deforestation, it is quite environmentally friendly because it is biodegradable. It is also a renewable source, coming from the oil palm tree.

Manufactures use it because it generates nearly 10 times the energy that is ensures, and doesn’t need any hydrogenation (the oil is hardened by chemicals to make it solid, and it is very bad for your heart). However, the main reason that industries use palm oil for their products is because of money! Palm oil comes from the fruits of the palm oil trees, which contain 50% oil. This means you can get more oil out of one palm fruit than a lot of handfuls of olives, which makes the palm oil very cheap! This increases the buying of palm oil, meaning more and more palm oil plantations.

Rainforest’s and swamp forests are logged, cleared and burned for palm oil plantations. While there are millions of hectares of land available that could be used for oil palm plantations without cutting down forests, most companies choose to log rainforest’s to make an additional profit from selling this valuable forest wood. They then plant this deforested land with oil palm plants. An estimated 73 – 88% of all timber logged in Indonesia is illegal. Are there any alternatives to using palm oil, and if there is, are we doing anything about it?

During the past decade orangutan populations have decreased by 50% in the wild, and given the current rate of deforestation, it is predicted that 98% of lowland forest in Indonesia will be destroyed by 2022. Yet, only 2% of the original forests are protected! I conducted a survey to see how we, as humans, feel about the palm oil plantations and the orangutans. 14 out of the 19 were aware about palm oil plantations (74%) and only 11% said no. Most people knew where the orangutans product if they knew it had palm oil in it, and 32% said they wouldn’t.

When asked how they felt about the palm oil, almost all the comments said that they felt it was terrible, and that we needed to do something about it. This surprised me as I thought hat not many people knew about palm oil, but more on that later. Basically, our population is growing and the demand is growing with it. The oil palm tree, which produces more oil per hectare than any other oil producing plant, therefore has a key role to play in feeding the planet. So we need a way to replace palm oil without cutting down the orangutans’ habitat.

One way is sustainable palm oil. Sustainable means it’s capable of continuing with little or no long-term effect on the environment. We need to improve production standards on existing plantations, and only expand n degraded lands. There is no need to expand palm oil plantations on rainforest’s! The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSVP) was formed in 2004 so they can promote the use of sustainable palm oil. The RSVP has established standards called the Principles and Criteria (P;C) that say the rules and regulations for sustainable palm oil.

It promotes projects such as better management in existing plantations, improvement in the land-use development for new palm oil plantations, and getting the manufactures and companies to make sure they buy only sustainable palm oil. In 2011 more than 5 million tones (10% of palm oil produced) was through the RSVP. Sustainable palm oil IS expensive, as it needs separate storage, infrastructure and growing practices; however is more industries started buying it, it would lead to better prices, an increase in production, and most importantly, a decrease in deforestation.

So we are definitely doing something about the palm oil situation, and if all palm oil was made sustainable, then the destruction of the rainforest’s would significantly decrease. Conclusion So, my hypothesis ‘Humans are not aware of palm oil plantations and the orangutans. ‘? Wrong! Back to my survey, quite a lot of people knew about palm oil, and many people said that they have been looking at the back of products and trying to buy non-palm oil products.

One person (anonymous) was fully aware of the palm oil plantations, would definitely not buy palm oil products if they knew orangutans had died for it, and commented ‘It was brought to my attention recently and I am trying hard to make sure I do not buy any products that contain palm oil. ‘ This is good as the more people that know about the orangutans the better! Secondly, we ARE owing something about it. Sustainable palm oil is a very viable option in the future, and will help save the lives of thousands of orangutans.