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Palm Oil and Orangutans

If you’ve been on anything social media these days – you’d have noticed hash tags like #AntiPalmOil #SaveTheOrangutans #BanPalmOil. What is with this hype and why all these negative feelings around Palm Oil?

Palm oil has a drastic affect on the environment and specifically on issues such as water pollution, greenhouse gasses and cultivation of crops taken over that actually belongs to the natives – but we’ll cover those later. We want to focus on the massive impact it has on orangutans – the main cause of their near extinction! Just the thought of your children or children’s children never being able to see one of these long armed, ginger beauties, only reading about them in books, not to mention the cruelty and careless behaviour towards another living creature.

This is one of the many reasons why we at Fresh Earth would like to encourage our followers to go with the palm free oil option.

Palm oil is found in everyday products – in fact almost every product you can think of. To list but a few simple products: ice cream, chocolate, biscuits, lipsticks, toothpaste, soap, detergents, cosmetics, biofuel etc. The list is endless!

Because palm oil is found in so many products and it is the cheapest oil in the world, it is in high demand for manufacturers especially in India, China and EU which make up the largest amount of consumers. So when you see products imported to South Africa that are manufactured or made in these countries, you will likely find that palm oil is listed amongst those ingredients in most cases. However we also find that the locally produced products are packed with this sought after oil.

Now you can imagine how forced the plantations of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) has become to keep up with this demand – the takeover of natural habitats in Western Africa and Southeast Asia is of huge concern. Forests, especially the low elevation ones that best support orangutans, have been rapidly deforested and transformed into oil palm plantations.

Keen to cash in – plantation owners have been clearing out rainforests in the quickest possible manner by chopping or setting fire to the vegetation.

Orangutans live entirely in trees, so it’s easy to see why they are endangered: HABITAT LOSS. They’re diet is also largely dependant on forest fruits. Because of the clearing of these forests, starving orangutans are desperately seeking food, having no choice but to grab a bite from the developing plantations (after all we are the one’s who took away their food, their homes – what else are they to do?).

They are then considered “agricultural pests”– leading to the death of around 5,000 orangutans a year and a decline of 90% of their overall population. Leaving these beautifully unique creatures on the brink of extinction. The orangutan is not in the plantation – the plantation is in their home!


We ask ourselves how a person could possibly harm another living creature for the sake of money, greed and unethical beliefs? How can we help bring change to this madness? This daylight robbery from Mother Nature? How can we bring the balance back?

We think – one small random act of mindfulness, something as small as choosing the chocolate bar that does not contain palm oil, reading your labels, having a conversation like “Hey, have you heard that orangutans are nearly extinct?” or “Did you know...” or something as small as following a #SaveTheOrangutans. Just one of these steps can make a big difference and bring about awareness of what we as humans are doing.

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