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Dine at Zoo’s restaurant and help save orang utans

Auckland City Council

Media release

Dine at Zoo’s rainforest restaurant and help save orang utans

For one night only, Auckland Zoo is offering a unique dining experience in its rainforest to raise funds to help Sumatran orang utans in the wild – a species now critically endangered due to the rapid growth of palm oil plantations.

Dining in the company of spider monkeys, siamangs and tamarins, and being waited on by zookeepers, is just part of what will be a unique and unforgettable night out for adventurous foodies and animal lovers on Sunday 9 November – the start of Orang utan Caring Week (9 – 14 November).

The evening (4.45pm to 9.30pm) will also include going behind the scenes to meet some of the Zoo’s animals up close. First up will be an encounter with elephants Kashin and Burma, followed by the chance to watch them paint – an activity they enjoy as part of their behavioural enrichment programme. One lucky guest will get to keep the painting.

Other up-close experiences will include a visit to Visa Entertainment Tiger Territory to watch a tiger encounter, followed by mystery tours with keepers to meet a range of other animals.

A professionally catered three-course meal, guaranteed to be palm oil-free, will then be served by primate keepers in the heart of the Newstalk ZB Rainforest.

Live music will add to the ambiance of the evening, and scatter feeds will keep the rainforest’s resident animals active and interested. There will also be the opportunity to chat with the keepers – many of whom star on ‘The Zoo’ TV show.

“This is a dining experience like no other. More importantly, it’s one that is going to be helping orang utans. “These incredibly beautiful great apes are genetically over 97% similar to us humans, and yet sadly, are being decimated because of human activity,” says Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund officer, Peter Fraser.

“Orang utan habitat in Sumatra and Borneo is being destroyed and logged unsustainably. This is despite the fact that there is already plenty of cleared land suitable for growing palm oil – but those companies involved want to make money from both the wood and palm oil. Palm oil is now used in so many everyday products and current labelling does not specify whether the palm oil has come from a sustainable source or not. “We can all make a difference by finding alternatives to these products. Unless we act now to help orang utans – our closest relatives - they will all be gone within our lifetime,” says Mr Fraser.

The cost per person for this exclusive experience is $200 per person (including drinks). Bookings can be made for a minimum of two people or a maximum of 10. For further details and to view the rainforest restaurant’s menu, visit www.aucklandzoo.co.nz To book, phone (09) 360 3800, Ext. 3828.

All proceeds from the evening will go to assist the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Project (SOCP) and its ‘Wildlife Protection Units’ in Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Sumatra’s Jambi province. For more about palm oil and orang utans visit www.aucklandzoo.co.nz www.palmoilaction.org.au and www.sumatranorangutan.com

NOTE: The rain venue for dinner is the zoo’s Old Elephant house, and all behind-the-scenes encounters are weather dependent.

Auckland Zoo is an enterprise of Auckland City Council. It is home to the largest collection of native and exotic wildlife species in New Zealand (over 1300 animals and 179 species) and attracts over half a million visitors annually. It is becoming increasingly well known nationally and internationally through the award-winning television programme, 'The Zoo'. At the heart of all Auckland Zoo's work and activities is its mission: "to focus the Zoo’s resources to benefit conservation and provide exciting visitor experiences which inspire and empower people to take positive action for wildlife and the environment". Auckland Zoo is a member of both the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks & Aquaria (ARAZPA) and the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA).

Orang utans

• Are the largest tree-dwelling animals on Earth, and the only great apes of Asia

• Only live on two islands – Borneo and Sumatra, Indonesia

• Have the most intense relationship between mother and young of any non-human mammal

• Have the longest birth interval of any mammal. In Borneo, they give both just once every 8 years, and in Sumatra, some females may give birth only once every 10 years

• Females do not breed until they are 17 years

• Genetic make-up is 97.4% similar to humans

Conservation status
The Sumatran orang utan is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). Today, its population numbers less than 7000 animals. Over 90 per cent of orang utan habitat has now been decimated by the growth of palm oil plantations, and if the current growth continues, it is predicted orang utans will be extinct in the wild in less than 10 years.

The total population of orang utans (Borneo and Sumatra) is estimated to be between 40,000 – 50,000 – half the number that existed 20 years ago. Between 80 -90 per cent are found in Borneo.

Palm oil
Palm oil is a vegetable oil used in a lot of supermarket items, including cosmetics and bath products. If it is made from a non-destructive source, it’s fine. The problem is when virgin rainforests are cleared for palm oil plantations, destroying natural habitat. There are millions of hectares of land already degraded – land that is suitable for growing palm oil, but selling rainforest business is a lucrative business.

How New Zealanders can help

• Insist food companies label their use of palm oil

• Urge supermarkets to stop buying products that contain palm oil from unsustainable resources

• Write letters to the government, and request they make labelling of palm oil compulsory

• Only buy wood products from a sustainable resource. NOTE: Kwila and teak are two rainforest timbers often harvested illegally and commonly sold as furniture in New Zealand. Even if legal, they are never sustainably grown – they are wild rainforest trees. Look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) approval when buying timber products (www.fsc.org)

• Visit: www.palmoilaction.au www.sumatranorangutan.com and www.aucklandzoo.co.nz


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