Palm oil? Not in this candy, mister!
I asked Tara Henson, spokeswoman at the Oklahoma City Zoo, about candy, orangutans and what the zoo is doing to preserve orangutan habitat during their annual Haunt the Zoo trick-or-treat event this week. (Haunt the Zoo starts today. Check below for event details.)
Q: Why did you start avoiding palm kernel oil? How does the consumption of palm kernel oil affect orangutans?
A: The zoo is looking for new ways to be green, to help our earth and all of the living creatures that call it home. It’s the only home we have. The more we can raise awareness and look at what we are doing, the more we can share, offer ideas and help people learn about better choices. Every choice can make a difference. Supply and demand pressures are driving the production of palm oil up to an all-time high. Found in cookies, crackers, frozen dinners, shampoo, lotions, cosmetics, pet food, and many other products, palm oil is now the most widely-produced edible oil. It is also found in a wide array of products sold in natural food stores, and it is being used as a possible fuel alternative. Millions of acres of rainforest in Borneo and Sumatra are cut down each year to plant more oil palm. After logging rainforest habitat, palm oil companies often use uncontrolled burning to clear the land or peat swamp. Animals are lost in these fires, as well. Instead of using already cleared land, some companies choose to cut down healthy rainforest. They gain added profits from the timber, and they can ignore the regulations that sustainable plantations abide by. The increased demand for palm oil is fueling destruction of the rainforest habitat of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, pushing those endangered species even closer to extinction. Estimates show that if something isn’t done soon to stop the spread of palm oil plantations into the forests that harbor these orangutans, they will be extinct in 10 to 15 years.
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