The Plight of the Orangutan

The problem lies with the palm oil industry who wildly destroy the forests of Borneo and Sumatra to extract the mesocarp from fruit growing on African oil palm trees. It would be very difficult to stop the entire world from using palm oil as 50 million tons of palm oil is produced annually, supplying over 30% of the world’s vegetable oil production. It is found in approximately 40-50% of household products in countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and England. Palm oil can be present in a wide variety of products, including: baked goods, confectionery, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents and toothpaste.

There are over 300,000 different animals found throughout the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra, many of which are injured, killed and displaced during deforestation. In addition, palm oil development increases accessibility of animals to poachers and wildlife smugglers who capture and sell wildlife as pets, use them for medicinal purposes or kill them for their body parts. The destruction of rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra is therefore not only a conservation emergency, but a major animal welfare crisis as well.

Government data has shown that over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil in the last two decades - I find that to be a disgustingly high figure. This either occurs during the deforestation process, or after the animal enters a village or existing palm oil plantation in search of food. Mother orangutans are also often killed by poachers and have their babies taken to be sold or kept as pets, or used for entertainment in wildlife tourism parks in countries such as Thailand and Bali.

Clearing of the orangutans’ habitat, the tropical rainforest, threatens the survival of the wild orangutan. When the forest disappears, the orangutan loses its source of food and its shelter and is forced close to humans – an encounter which is often fatal to the orangutans.

Female orangutans only reach sexual maturity when they are 12-15 years old (with a life span of only around 30 to 40 years in the wild), and they can give birth every six years approximately. This makes the orangutan a vulnerable species.

One of the main reasons for deforestation in these areas is due to the demand for palm oil. Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil that is derived from the palm fruit, grown on the African oil palm tree. Today, palm oil is grown throughout Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, with 85% of all palm oil globally produced and exported from Indonesia and Malaysia; but most of the time not using sustainable measures.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.

In just 60 years half of Borneo’s orangutans have disappeared. Each year, an additional two to three thousand are lost. But why are the numbers dwindling so fast?
As well as orangutans, other animals suffer as a result of the extensive palm oil industry including the Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sun Bear, Pygmy Elephant, Clouded Leopard and Proboscis Monkey. Road networks that are constructed to allow palm oil plantation workers and equipment access to the forest also increase accessibility of these areas to poachers that are looking for these kinds of valuable animals. This allows poachers to comfortably drive to an area to sit and wait for their target to come to them.

I suggest a boycott on all products that contain palm oil (check all ingredients listed on foods that you buy). You can also do what I did and adopt an orangutan to help it get nursed back to health, you can do that here. Also, visit, and for more details about the palm oil industry.

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