SAVE Orangutans

say no to palm oil

The Palm Oil Catastrophy

                        Rainforest                                        Rainforest                               Rainforest after logging & burning

The single greatest threat facing orangutans today is the rapidly expanding palm oil trade. Rainforests are being cleared at the rate of 300 football fields per hour to make way for oil palm plantations.

While there are millions of hectares of degraded land that could be used for plantations, many oil palm companies choose to instead use rainforest land to gain additional profits by logging the timber first. Palm oil companies also frequently use uncontrolled burning to clear the land, resulting in thousands of orangutans being burned to death. Those that survive have nowhere to live and nothing left to eat.

                                    palm fruit                                  clearing the rainforest                   chained orangutan

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is a form of edible vegetable oil obtained from the fruit of the African oil palm tree. Palm Oil is the world’s second largest oil crop. It is believed to have recently eclipsed soybean oil to become the world's most widely-produced edible oil. It is used in many food, cosmetic and household products. More recently it is being touted as a biofuel - despite evidence that the use of palm oil-based diesel actually increases greenhouse emissions. Australians consume anaverage of 10kg of palm oil per person each year.

Why is palm oil such a deadly oil?

Environmental Impacts of Palm Oil The increased demand for palm oil, which is grown only in tropical environments, is fuelling destruction of the rainforest habitat of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, pushing those endangered species even closer to extinction. An expansion in oil palm plantations is causing massive deforestation and this is the greatest threat to orangutans. They and 3,000 endangered species of flora and fauna such as the Sumatran rhino and tiger need the rainforest to survive. It is estimated that 80% - 100% of the forests’ birds, mammals and reptiles can not survive in oil palm plantations. We must protect the remaining rainforest habitat. Estimates show that if something isn't done soon to stop the spread of oil palm plantations into the forests, orangutans will be extinct within 10-20 years or even sooner, it's difficult to calculate an exact time.

Palm Oil is a major contributor to Global Warming - Wet, swampy rainforests are drained and cleared to make way for oil palm plantations. As they dry, their peat filled soils release large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that has a global warming impact 23 times greater than CO2. The cleared land is highly susceptible to long burning fires that emit large quantities of carbon. Illegally lit peat land fires in Borneo have for years been one of the largest global sources of greenhouse gas emissions. It has recently been calculated that 15% of all carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels come from this rainforest destruction.

Social impacts of Palm Oil The development of new Palm Oil plantations is commonly associated with social conflict and human-rights’ abuses. Most of the area developed is customary land owned by indigenous peoples and local communities. In the name of the 'national interest', communities are being forced to give up land, often against their will and without adequate compensation. Many Palm Oil companies claim they bring work to the area, but do not always employ the local people. As a result, conflicts between them and local communities are widespread and growing.

Beware of BioFuel Using Palm Oil to make ‘greener’ fuels does not make sense and is an example of how well-meaning efforts to limit climatechanging carbon emissions can backfire. Marcel Silvius, a climate expert, compared the benefits of palm oil to the ecological harm produced as a result of land clearing for plantations. His conclusion: "As a biofuel, it's a failure."

Health impacts of Palm Oil Oil palm is high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat. Biomedical research indicates that the consumption of Palm Oil increases the risk of heart disease. The National Heart Foundation of Australia, World Health Organisation and the Australian and New Zealand Departments of Health have urged the public to avoid saturated fats in their diets. However, avoiding Palm Oil is difficult when food manufacturers aren’t required to label it. Even though these products contain Palm Oil or Palm Oil derivatives, the labelling isn’t clear. Consumers have a right to know if the oil used in a product is contributing to the destruction of rainforests and the slaughter of wildlife. Insist on knowing if the vegetable oil used is Palm Oil from Indonesia or Malaysia and if it has been grown sustainably. Food manufacturers can find other ways of making these products however we can’t find other ways of making orangutans. National Heart Foundation of Australia says palm oil is far from healthy. The consumption of saturated fats is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Is there such a thing as sustainable palm oil?

The answer is yes but only about 3-4% of total production is currently certified as sustainable.  Furthermore manufacturers are proving reluctant to pay the premium associated with this product.

Manufacturers may claim to be using sustainable palm oil because they are members of, or supplied by members of, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). However, this in itself is no guarantee as members only need commit to "working towards" producing a sustainable product. Advice from the groups rescuing Orangutans in the field say some who claim to be producing sustainable palm oil are not. Because of this we advocate boycotting all products which have palm oil or it's derivatives in and until we are 100% sure that the producers who are members of the RSPO are kosher we will advocate boycott products using palm oil full stop.

For a list of palm oil free products please go to out Orangutan Friendly Products List Page

What can I do about palm oil?

There are a number of things you can do:

1. Learn the names which disguise palm oil in your products, this may seem difficult but I put the folowing list on the wall in my toilet and read it everytime I went I there and now I think I could recognise most of them if I saw them on a label. We also have cards with these on and if you would like one or some they are available cheaply from the webstore.

In Your Groceries  -  Vegeatable Oil (if it has saturated fat listed in the content), most Sodium Laureth Sulfates (some can be derived from coconut), most Sodium Lauryl Sulfates(SLS)(can be from ricinis), Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate (SDS or NaDS), Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil

 In your Cosmetics  -  Elaeis Guineensis, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid

Chemicals Which Contain Palm Oil  -  Steareth 2, Steareth 20, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate, most Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetates, Hydrated Palm Glycerides, Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid), Sodium Palm Kernelte, Cetyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate (anything with Palmitate at the end), Palmolein, Palm Olein

2. You can also write letters to retailers and the government expressing your concerns and demanding change.                  You'll find sample letters on the Palm Oil Action Group site (

  • Be part of Zoo's "Don't Palm Us Off" campaign and add your name to the list of those asking for change in labelling requirements (
  • Inform your family, friends and colleagues of the issue.
  • purchase one of our 'say no to palm oil' tshirts or tank tops and carry our palm oil cards around with you when you where it so you can give one to anyone interested in knowing more. go to our webstore

Public pressure will be the best weapon in bringing about change. We know it can work. Witness the recent decision by Cadbury to remove palm oil from its dairy milk chocolate range in Australia and New Zealand as a result of complaints from the public. 

Helping you buy responsibly – Palm oil free alternatives

Many of you have heard about palm oil and don’t want to be complicit in fuelling demand for the product which is decimating the orangutan’s habitat. However it is not always easy to identify products with palm oil. Under Food Standards Australia New Zealand requirements, it is sufficient to have vegetable oil in the list of ingredients on the packet, even though the product contains palm oil. As a rule of thumb, if the saturated fat content is about 50%, there is a good chance that the vegetable oil will in fact be palm oil.

Another thing to watch out for on the ingredients list is margarine.  If the product contains margarine, it is highly likely that the margarine will have been derived from palm oil. Additives and agents such as emulsifiers (E471 is a common one), while a small component of the overall product, can also be derived from palm oil.