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Palm Oil Products Linked To Orang-utan Demise

Palm Oil Products Linked To Orang-utan Demise

By Michelle King – AUT Graduate Diploma in Journalism student.

New Zealanders must stop buying palm oil products if they want to save the critically endangered orang-utan, according to a leading international conservation expert coming to Auckland this week.

“Only 7000 orang-utans are left, in Indonesia and Malaysia, due to their homes in the rainforests being cut down,” says Dr Peter Pratje, the director of Sumatran Orang-utan Conservation Programme (SOCP).

Image courtesy of Auckland Zoo. Auckland Zoo holds Bornean Orang-utan. This species faces the same dangers that impact on its natural environment as the Sumatran Orang-utan.

Dr Pratje says the destruction of the rainforest is to make way for palm oil plantations because of consumer demand for products containing palm oil.

Dr Pratje is coming to Auckland on Saturday 17 March to tell New Zealanders how they can help save the orang-utan from extinction.

It is up to consumers to fight for the orang-utans, says Dr Pratje. “In the long run people need to try and avoid buying palm oil products. Pressure needs to come from consumers that these products should not be sold.”

Christine Tintinger, a keeper at Auckland Zoo, says people should be aware of the growing interest and use of palm oil as it is used in the manufacture of many consumer goods and biofuels. Palm oil is commonly found in detergents and cosmetics.

“Dr Pratje’s talk is relevant for everyone, and [he] hopes that anyone with an interest in protecting wildlife and the environment will come along. Along with the illegal trade of infant orang-utans, the production of palm oil remains the biggest threat to the survival of this magnificent animal. As consumers, this makes us all connected to the problem and the crisis,” says Ms Tintinger,

“Rainforests are being torn down by loggers and orang-utans are being poached and sold as pets. In the last 20 years there has been a massive destruction of the orang-utans’ habitat,” says Dr Pratje. These animals are now officially considered critically endangered.

Ms Tintinger says that it is not just palm oil products, it is forestry as well. “People should also be aware of the wood they buy. Don’t buy native timbers that have come from these countries – this only encourages the destruction of the orang-utans’ habitat.”

Dr Pratje has been fighting to save the rainforests and orang-utans for years. His conservation work involves running community based patrols to ensure loggers and poachers are caught and convicted. He has also set up a rehabilitation project for reintroducing poached orang-utans into the wild.

He is calling on Kiwis to get behind an Auckland Zoo initiative to save the rainforests and the orang-utan from extinction. “All New Zealanders can help the plight of Sumatran orang-utans in the wild, by supporting the work of SOCP,” says Dr Pratje. They can do this by coming to fundraising events, or making donations directly to Auckland Zoo.

Auckland Zoo is home to the Bornean orang-utan. “Having orang-utans here at the zoo enables us to play a big advocacy role,” says Jane Healy, communications coordinator from Auckland Zoo.

Dr Pratje first fell in love with the orang-utan nine years ago when he got the opportunity to work on a conservation project for the animal. “It was my dream job,” says Dr Pratje.


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