Malaysia and Indonesia produce over 80% of palm oil. Palm oil as a cooking medium is in high demand, and it is expected to rise by 50% over the next ten years. Europe thinks of using it as biodiesel for its cars. It has also enriched many farmers. Palm fruit is used to make bread, soap, lipstick and even dog food. The palm tree is up to 10 times more efficient than other crops such as soybeans, rapeseed and canola in terms of the amount of land it needs. So palm is considered as a golden crop.
But, the growing palm oil industry will wipe out Orangutans, the apes, from the face of the Earth. Also, forest fires are set every year in Indonesia to make the land for palm cultivation that chokes in the dry season.
UN Great Ape Survival Partnership coordinator Doug Cress says that cultivation of oil palm plantations in the known habitats of Orangutan has virtually wiped out the species and only a few have survived. In the last forty years, palm oil and logging have wiped 30% of its forest cover in Brunei.
Pressure from the green groups and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have restrained the oil industry from cutting virgin rainforests. To get certified, the producers have to meet stringent conditions like fair treatment of workers, no land grabs, no chemical pesticides, or harming of orangutans and peatlands. But it costs them an extra $15 to certify per metric tonne of palm oil. Only 20% of world production is sustainable.
Local officials, along with conservation groups like WWF have joined hands to replant trees for the orangutans. For now, the Ulu Segama forest reserve is safe.
Orangutans can’t be saved unless consumers insist on sustainably produced palm oil.