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Thank you for supporting orangutans







Woodland Park Zoo supports the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and those companies that have committed to the use of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).


Which treats are good to eat?

Download the Sustainable Palm Oil Treat List 

The topic of palm oil is a complex and emotional issue. On one side there may be some health benefits, but at what cost? Habitat loss due to rain forest conversion to one crop like palm oil, called a monoculture, and ecosystem fragmentation from oil palm plantations could drive the orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra to extinction. But orangutans aren’t the only ones that suffer as habitat is converted to agriculture—tigers, sun bears, clouded leopards, bearded pigs and other endangered species, plants, fish, water sources and indigenous people are at risk as natural rain forest land disappears. The information on this page is intended to help inform and educate while raising awareness about the complex issues surrounding palm oil.

Again, this is a complex issue. Educate yourself: Be smart, know the companies that are part of the RSPO and support them. Tell the companies that are not using certified sustainable palm oil that you support the RSPO and would like them to join and make the commitment to move to the use of certified sustainable palm oil by 2015.


How is palm oil used? 

Palm oil is frequently found in margarines and fats. It is also used in creating dry cake mix, biscuit mixes, cakes and sponge cakes, soaps, peanut butter, sauces, powdered milk and as a fat substitute used when making condensed milk and non-lacteous cream used in coffee and ice cream.

  • Palm oil is considered one of the best frying oils because it can resist high temperatures and does not produce unpleasant odors – making it the go-to oil for fried potatoes, French fries, pies, pastries and doughnuts.
  • Palm kernel oil is used in the production of concentrated foods and as a supplement in animal food. Because it resembles coco oil, palm kernel oil is popular among chocolate lovers and can be used as a substitute for cacao and the fats found in milk.
  • Palm kernel oil is used in creams made from sugar, condensed milk and doughnut fillings. It is frequently found in biscuits, croissants, breads and cakes because it gives them a softer texture and a sweeter taste.
  • Palm and palm kernel oil are also found in many non-edible items such as soaps, detergents, candles, cosmetics, lubricating greases for machinery, grease used to protect tanks, pipelines, used during the production of PVC, glue, printing inks, and biodiesel.


How does palm oil impact the environment?

Palm oil trees originate in tropical regions – where rain forest land is converted to monoculture (the cultivation or growth of a single crop) plantations – impacting the biodiversity of the ecosystems that they replace. Due to rapidly rising demand for palm oil, Malaysia and Indonesia now account for 81% of world’s palm oil production.  In order to sustain that production, rain forest land is being decimated at an alarming rate. The amount of land used for palm oil production in Malaysia increased from 54,638 hectares (approximately 210 square miles) in 1960 to 3,376,664 hectares in 2000 (approximately 13,034 square miles), a 61% increase according to the World Wildlife Fund (2002). What’s at risk in this dramatic increase? The loss of critical flora and fauna habitat in a region that is home to some of the world’s most amazing biodiversity, and the potential extinction of several species of large animals, including the Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, the Sumatran tiger, the Sumatran rhinoceros, and the Asian elephant. How does this play out in statistics?

  • Indonesia faces the highest rate of rain forest loss in the world.

  • There are currently over 7 million acres (approximately 11,700 square miles) of deforested land available for palm oil plantations in Borneo and Sumatra, however many corporations decide to use unconverted rain forest in order to gain additional timber profits.
  • The deforestation rate is about 4.9 million acres of rain forest each year—approximately 7,644 square miles—or an area just slightly larger than the size of New Jersey.
  • Biodiversity at risk: Borneo is home to 13 primate species, approximately 400 bird species, 150 reptile and amphibian species, 3,000 species of trees, and 15,000 species of flowering plants. Sumatra is home to more than 500 bird species and more than 200 mammal species, including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger and rhino.


How you can help

Your power is in your awareness and in your voice. The choices you make can slow the production of non-certified sustainable palm oil.

  • Become familiar with the companies that are a part of the RSPO and support them by purchasing their products.

  • Write to any food supplier that lists VEGETABLE OIL as an ingredient and that is not a part of the RSPO and ask them if they use certified sustainable palm oil. If so, ask them if they have mapped the supply chain to be sure the palm oil is also deforestation-free. Support the World Wildlife Fund’s goal of 100 per cent sustainable palm oil by 2015. Currently just 1 per cent of the 1.3 million metric tons of sustainable palm oil produced since November 2008 have been sold—in part because it is more expensive.
  • Offer your support to conservation organizations that are impacted by palm oil plantations like WPZ's Partners for Wildlife: Hutan Asian Elephant Conservation, Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Project, and the Hornbill Research Foundation. These non-govermental organizations are working on innovative ways to save orangutans and elephants by joining forces with palm oil producers to purchase pieces of land in order to create wildlife corridors, thus creating a more comprehensive habitat.


For more information

Check out the RSPO’s website at  Learn more about the zoo’s conservation partners that are impacted by palm oil plantations and what they’re doing to safeguard the species and habitat:


Orangutan in the wild. Photo by Tim Laman.





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