“Unilever is one of the major buyers of palm oil, and they have sat down at the table on an equal footing with environmental and wildlife groups to discuss what can be done to improve conditions,” he said. “Consumers now can make a choice whether to buy products from companies that care about helping, and choose not to buy from companies that don't.”
The keeping of orangutans as pets is also a problem.
Singleton's Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program has returned about 185 orangutans to the wild over the past decade that had been kept as pets.
“When they are young, they are very cute and sociable, but when they mature they become very self-centered, and sex becomes a priority,” he said. “That's when people get bitten or even killed.”
Singleton said most people who have taken orangutans as pets are ready to give them up after a short time.
“They are loved to bits for about a week, and then they are chained to a chicken shed in the back of someone's house,” he said. “They get a rotten life.”
Singleton will visit several others zoos in the United States before returning to Sumatra.
He came away impressed with Oklahoma City's efforts at conservation and the orangutan and tiger exhibits.
“It is a very nice facility for these animals,” Singleton said.
“This community has done a lot to help this cause through outreach, and we are extremely appreciative for that.”
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Consumers now can make a choice whether to buy products from companies that care about helping, and choose not to buy from companies that don't.”