Oklahoma City Zoo focuses on orangutan conservation with Halloween candy

The 28th annual Haunt the Zoo for Halloween will be Oct. 26-31. The Oklahoma City Zoo will hand out treats that have no palm oil, or palm oil grown sustainably, in support of orangutan habitat conservation.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Published: October 26, 2011

More than half a million treats will be handed out this week as the Oklahoma City Zoo celebrates the 28th annual Haunt the Zoo for Halloween trick-or-treat event.

For the first time, all of those treats will be orangutan-friendly.

Zoo officials have been working for the past few years to eliminate candy and snacks that use unsustainable palm oil, zoo spokeswoman Tara Henson said.

Palm oil is a vegetable oil gleaned from palm trees and used in everything from food to bath products, Henson said. The farming of those palm trees has become popular in Sumatra and Borneo, home to two species of endangered orangutans, Henson said. Palm oil farming has destroyed the orangutans' rain forest habitats.

“They're the only great ape in Asia,” Henson said, “and they're critically endangered.”

This year, all Haunt the Zoo treats either have no palm oil or have palm oil grown on sustainable farms, Henson said. But balancing price, conservation and public demand can be tricky.

“We're all learning,” she said. “It's amazing what palm oil is in. We have to start somewhere.”

Zoo officials also have encouraged sponsors to hand out orangutan-friendly treats, she said.

At a glance

Haunt the Zoo

The 28th annual Haunt the Zoo for Halloween runs Wednesday through Monday. The event is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. each day. Admission is $7 at the door for each trick-or-treater and includes an official treat bag. Accompanying adults are admitted free of charge. Discounted tickets are $6 and available for purchase during regular business hours at the zoo or at www.okczoo.com. Concessions and other items will be available for purchase.

By the numbers

500,000: Pieces of candy and other treats handed out.

30,000: Expected number of attendees this year.

900: Volunteers used to run the event.

700: Pumpkins along the trail.

Source: Oklahoma City Zoo

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