What is palm oil?
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil and is used in many of the foods and products you likely buy; it is the most widely consumed vegetable oil in the world, created from the fruit of oil palm trees native to the rainforests of Africa as well as Central and South America.
Unfortunately, not all farming of these trees is environmentally friendly — and the unsustainable palm oil industry is responsible for wide-scale deforestation to make way for oil palm plantations. These plantations are often created through “slash and burn” methods of deforestation which causes air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution and erosion, as well as contributing to climate change.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, 90% of palm oil trees are grown in Malaysia and Indonesia. The exact scale of palm oil deforestation in these countries is unknown, but the impact is so large it is noticeable from space. These forests are also some of the most biodiverse on Earth, home to many critically endangered species such as rhinos, orangutans, tigers, and so many more incredible and precious species. The continued destruction of this habitat is pushing many species to the brink of extinction; if we do not act right now we could lose these incredible animals forever.
What can I do?
There are things you can do right here at home to help save these precious species:
- Purchase products made with sustainable palm oil. By purchasing sustainable palm oil, you are directly encouraging the conservation of these habitats and animal species. An easy way to tell the difference between sustainable and unsustainable palm oil is to download Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping App.
- Support efforts to certify sustainable palm oil. As consumers, it is nearly impossible to tell which products use palm oil and which products are sustainable. Support for organizations such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is necessary so that we can ensure palm oil is sourced sustainably.
- Speak out and spread the word about palm oil. Many people have no idea palm oil exists, let alone its negative impact on animal species and our planet. Help spread awareness to your friends, family and community. Together we can stop unsustainable palm oil from destroying our planet’s rainforests.
Do you want to learn more about palm oil? Visit the links below to learn more about this issue and what you can do to help.
The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums- About Palm Oil
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums- Statement in Support of Sustainable Palm Oil
The International Union for Conservation of Nature- Palm Oil and Biodiversity Issue Brief