An issue that is garnering more attention, but still not talked about often enough is the palm oil industry and the dangers it poses to wildlife, the environment, and the health of the local people. The palm oil industry is single-handedly responsible for the destruction of 2.5 million acres of Indonesian rainforest every year because the palm trees need humidity and heat, which results in the workers burning the forests and planting their trees instead.
Indonesian rainforests now have less than half of the forest cover that it started with and the environment is suffering as a result. Not only are the fires bad for the environment, but the production of the oil as well as the significant loss in carbon-absorbing trees is wreaking havoc on the environment and the animals that live within the forest.
Among these animals are Sumatran tigers, orangutans, and elephants, all of which are extremely endangered, have been victims of the fires, and have even been shot point-blank by workers who deem them a nuisance. The rest have lost their habitat and either starved to death because they refuse to leave or they keep moving towards the remaining rainforest until the workers burn down more trees.
One organization that is working to help orangutans in particular is International Animal Rescue (IAR), who run a rescue and rehabilitation center for orphaned baby orangutans and eventually release them back into the wild. With the land disappearing rapidly, it’s tough to find safe spaces to release them and IAR is trying to not only buy more land for their rescue, but secure wild rainforest for them to live forever.
“We already have more than 100 rescued orangutans in our center so space is at a premium!” Alan Knight, CEO of IAR, told The Dodo. “The extra land will provide a vital new piece of forest where they can practice their climbing, foraging and nest-building skills before they return to the wild.”
At IAR, the baby orangutans get to bond together and provide comfort to each other after all that they have been through. More orangutans are likely to be orphaned in the coming years, since the palm oil industry is expected to be more than doubled by 2022, and that’s why the rescue is aware that they need to expand.
Their goal is to purchase 64 acres of land and they need $ 260,000 to do it; so far, they’ve raised $ 95,000 of their goal and they’re hoping to purchase it as soon as possible so that they aren’t too limited and can provide comfortable space to all of their orangutans.
“By securing this precious piece of land we can protect it forever from the chainsaws and bulldozers that are destroying so much of the forest surrounding our center,” Knight said.
The palm oil industry is expanding rapidly because of the abundance of products the oil is used in. Most people are not aware that palm oil can be in anything, from cosmetics to snack products to laundry detergent, so it’s difficult to regulate exactly how much palm oil we’re using. If you would like to get an idea of what types of products use palm oil, you can check out this interactive website here.
If you would like to help IAR with their mission to provide more land for baby orangutans, you can donate to their fund here.