You can help wild orangutans

Photo by Marie Kraus

Photo by Marie Kraus

This spring has been so exciting at the Zoo with all the new babies! We have our little golden lion tamarin, the three adorable baby goats, the roly-poly lion cubs, and our latest addition, Kumang’s daughter, a Bornean orangutan. And of course like all families, there have multitudes of pictures taken of these precious little babies. Yesterday, I was struck by the amazing photo (to the right) of Kumang cradling her baby’s hand in hers.

This photo instantly made me feel even more strongly for these amazing animals. I don’t understand how anyone could look at this beautiful mother-daughter pair and not feel that connection. How could any of us do anything that could be harmful to our ape cousins? Yet, it is our actions that could cause these beautiful creatures to be extinct in the wild within the next 5 to 10 years.

This week and going forward, I urge all of our Zoo fans to take action to help save orangutans in the wild. It starts with reading labels on all the products you purchase at the grocery store. Roughly 3 out of 5 products contain some form of palm oil. This can be hidden by being listed as: PKO – Palm Kernel Oil, PKO fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin (PKs); Palm Kernel Olein (PKOo), PHPKO – Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil, FP(K)O – Fractionated Palm Oil, OPKO – Organic Palm Kernel Oil, Palmitate – Vitamin A or Asorbyl Palmitate, Palmate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Sodium Lauryl Sulphates, Sodium dodecyl Sulphate, Elaeis Guineensis, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Steareth -2, Steareth -20, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate , Hydrated palm glycerides, Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye , Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate.

What does palm oil have to do with orangutans? Rainforest habitats where orangutans and many other animals dwell are slashed and burned to make way for palm oil plantations. Sadly, roughly 85% of all palm oil used in manufacturing is sourced from Indonesia and Malaysia where many species, including orangutans are threatened with extinction.

Not all palm oil is bad. There are some companies making sound environmental choices and utilizing sustainable palm oil. This is palm oil that is produced in places where it is not affecting orangutans and other endangered species. The Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil  is an organization that regulates this. Companies who have joined the roundtable have committed to using only sustainable palm oil in their manufacturing. It is not enough to boycott products that contain “bad” palm oil, but to support the companies that use “good” palm oil. It is also important to let companies know that they should do the right thing and use only palm oil from sustainable sources. Write to these folks and let them know! It works!

Photo by Kelli O'Brien

Photo by Kelli O’Brien

Come to the Zoo this Saturday, May 11th for M.O.M. (Missing Orangutan Mothers) Day to learn more.

We will be celebrating our beautiful new baby orangutan and handing out sustainable palm oil wallet cards to help you make responsible product choices. There will be activities for the kids including coloring stations, face painting, docent touch tables, and raffles for orangutan friendly items and a drawing done by one of our orangutans! Donations will be accepted and all proceeds will be contributed to orangutan conservation. Events will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside and outside the Zoo’s Main Building.

- Tina Crandall-Gommel, Youth and School Groups Programs Coordinator

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