Palm Oil’s Impact on Wildlife

Palm oil, a primary ingredient in certain foods, cosmetics and even household products, is a serious issue because of the negative impacts it’s having on the environment and wildlife.  The palm oil industry is causing havoc across many environmental groups because palm oil plantations have been creating a whole cluster of problems including deforestation, forest fires, and easier access for hunters and traders to get to wildlife.

Orangutan wildlife in particular has been affected by the palm oil industry because of the destruction of their habitat. The WWF has reported around 11 million hectares of oil palm plantations. Of these 11 million hectares, 6 million are located in Indonesia–the living habitat of many endangered species like orangutans. Scientists calculated less than 60,000 orangutans remaining in areas of Sumatra and Borneo, resulting from the palm oil processes.

Paul Hilton, a photographer and photojournalist, recently went to Sumatra and described it as “a disaster for the planet.” He discovered that roadside markets with orphan orangutans and other wildlife trading was extremely common, and with little to no patrol from law enforcement. Hilton explained that elephants are dying off because of being poisoned by consuming palm oil due to their keen taste for it.

The palm oil industry has also been known for violating human rights in places like Indonesia by conducting inhumane treatment towards workers and child laborers. These palm oil industries have a negative impact on the indigenous people because they are forced to work in order to make a living, but a poor living with poor working conditions.

Palm oil production is considered to be held responsible for climate change because of it’s disruption to the world’s ecosystems as well as creating increased carbon emissions. According to the Sumatran Orangutan Society, when a large amount of rainforest is replaced with oil palms, there’s a release of 65 times more carbon released into the atmosphere. This could be saved annually if the palm oil was created into biofuel.

According to Whole Food’s April 2014 Sustainable Palm Oil a Hot Issue article, some recent developments are being made for sustainable palm oil production. The Kellogg Company announced in February 2014 that they will begin to strive for palm oil sources that are produced environmentally, socially and economically eco-friendly, and safer for our planet. The Kellogg Company discussed about joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which was founded in 2004.

What can you do about this issue?

Palm oil is used in a lot of products, but not every product. Be aware of the products you are buying, and know that if a product includes palm oil, you could be helping support the continuation of unjust practices for our environment, wildlife, and planet. Consider making donations toward the Sumatran Orangutan Society or help raise awareness by supporting campaigns related to saving the habitats for many of the rainforests and wildlife affected.

Stephanie Rodriguez