Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Palm Oil Crisis

I believe that most people are aware that our planet is strained with limited resources.  When you work in a zoo and you are faced with the tragic stories of endangered animals and their bleak futures, it sometimes is overwhelming to find ways to help them.  But sometimes, we can make some simple adjustments that truly do have a fantastic impact on our planet's endangered species.  One of those is regarding Orangutans and palm oil. 

You might not recognize how many consumer products contain palm oil.  It is a vegetable oil containing primariliy the saturated fatty acid known as palmitic acid.  It is characteristically red in color due to naturally occuring beta-carotene. 

The bad part about palm oil is the destruction of natural rain forest to plant palm oil plantations.  This destruction and loss of habitat has been the major factor in the vanishing populations of wild orangutans.  Of all the primates, these red heads are one of my favorites. They are extremely intelligent and all together comical.  Not long after we opened our new Orangutan exhibit,one of our female orangs pulled off pieces of her new exhibit at night and jammed them in the fire sprinklers, flooding the building.  Although our staff found it utterly frustrating to have to deal with the mess in the middle of the night, you couldn't help but appreciate her strength at dismantling the exhibit and crafting new tools.  They are simply amazing animals. 

I know my blogs are geared toward pets, and there is a point here I promise!!!  I am not one of those activists that says don't ever use palm oil, but I certainly believe there are places where we can all become stewards of our delicate planet and hopefully save some fragile wildlife.  All it takes is a little understanding and some decisions.  Because palm oil can be harvested from existing plantations, additional destruction is not necessary.  Therefore, we can use sustainable sources of palm oil.  The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was formed in 2004 to promote the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders.  Companies can commit to this effort and become an RSPO member.  More information can be found at: http://www.rspo.org/ .

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo also has a great blog dedicated to the crisis and things that people can do.  In addition they have published a shopping list of items (including petfood companines) that are listed and considered sustainable. http://www.cmzoo.org/conservation/palmOilCrisis/ .  If you feed commercial foods, check the ingredients of your foods. Often palm oil is hidden in ingredients such as "retinyl palmitate".  In other words, many of the vitamin supplements used in feeds contain palm oil.  If they do contain palmitate items check to see if the companies are on this approved list or contact them and ask.  The more we spread the word about the fact that palm oil can be used sustainably to save orangutans, the better shot we have at saving them.

I want the very best for my dogs and myself, and I know those of you that read this blog do as well but I don't feel we can sacrifice more resources for that goal alone. We can have the best for our pets and still reduce our carbon footprints throughout our daily lives.

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