Melbourne and Auckland Zoos, Greenpeace, the WWF and the Palm Oil Action Group are campaigning for the public, chefs and food manufacturers to boycott the use of palm oil, which is pushing Orangutans towards extinction. Production of the oil is estimated to be responsible for the death of around 50 endangered orangutans each week as well as the intensive destruction of forest in Indonesia and Malaysia, which together provide over 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.
The United Nations has warned that at the current rate, orangutans could be extinct within a generation. The production of palm oil, which is estimated to be used in as many as one in ten supermarket products, requires vast areas of forest to be destroyed and replanted, leaving behind a barren landscape which is uninhabitable for 90 percent of the areas’ wildlife. In Southeast Asia alone, the equivalent of 300 football fields are deforested every hour for palm oil production.
Zoos Victoria Community Conservation Manager Rachel Lowry points out that palm oil is not currently labeled on most food products, and is often labeled as ‘vegetable oil’, so consumers have no idea if they are contributing to the crisis. Campaigners aim to pressure FZANZ, the governmental body responsible for developing food standards for Australia and New Zealand, to change legislation that would enforce food companies to label palm oil in their products.