Monday, December 23, 2013

World’s Largest Palm Oil Company Commits to No Deforestation

We are excited that Wilmar International has committed to producing only products that are deforestation free and void of links to human rights abuse. We look forward to seeing further progress in the palm oil industry in the near future and hope additional companies will make the same pledge. Read the full story about Wilmar’s commitment below. 

World’s Largest Palm Oil Company Commits to No Deforestation

By: Kim Lewis

A new policy that looks to transform the palm oil industry was recently announced.  Asia’s leading palm oil producer, Wilmar International, said it has committed to producing only products that are free from links to deforestation and abuse of human rights.  Palm oil is a $50-billion a year commodity that is found in half of all consumer goods. It is in chocolate, baked goods, soaps, detergents, and many more household items.  The production of it has caused the clearing of tropical forests for plantations, threatening ecological systems as well as forest animals.

In addition clearing land for plantations has threatened the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on forests for survival.

Scott Poynton, is a forest conservationist and supply chain expert.  He founded the international nonprofit, The Forest Trusts, TFT, an organization that works with businesses to help them produce more responsibly.He said the announcement by Wilmar International is a massive one and a huge commitment that will take a lot of work to implement.

“There’s never been such a strong commitment in the palm oil industry before, and not only in the palm oil industry, but in the agribusiness sector such as soy, or beef, or any of these sectors.  There’s never been an announcement equivalent to this.  So it’s really of global significance,” explained Poynton. 

The forest conservationist highlighted that the commitment to “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation, No High Carbon Stock…” sets a benchmark for the entire industry, which includes palm plantations in Africa.

“The Wilmar International is the largest palm oil company in the world, and controls about 45% of the global trade in palm oil.  Wilmar itself has interests in Africa, and one of the responses to the announcement has been some concern expressed by some civil society organizations, NGO’s, however, Wilmar's response is look we are going to roll out these policies across our global operation base which includes Africa,” said Poynton, who added this is good news for Africa because there is interest in expanding palm oil production on the continent.

“Palm oil is an opportunity to bring in socio-economic development but we want to do that without trashing and destroying the environment, or people’s lives,” pointed out Poynton.  And he said the transformative policies to protect forests and people will help ensure that any new development that comes about will be done in the right way.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Your signature is needed!

Help save the majority of remaining lowland forests in Aceh, Indonesia---the last few strongholds for the Sumatran tiger, elephant, rhino and orangutan. Please click on the link (, and let the government of Aceh know that is important to save the Leuser Ecosystem and the endangered species that call it home!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Update from Indonesia on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Annual Conference

By Dina Bredahl and Tracey Gazibara

Batu Mblein Quarantine Center
After thirty-four hours of traveling, we arrived in Medan, Indonesia on Sunday morning, November 10.  Our reason for traveling half way around the world was to attend the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) annual conference along with over 600 delegates from countries all over the world.

Before beginning the conference on Tuesday, we were able to meet with Dr. Ian Singleton with Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) and visit Batu Mbelin quarantine center where nearly 50 orangutans are being cared for. Many of the orangutans have been confiscated as they were being held illegally as pets. We were excited to hear that several of the orangutans would be on their way to be re-released into the wild next week.

Dina, Darrel Webber and Tracey at the RSPO.
Our goal for this conference was to interact with other stakeholders to further our work with palm oil sustainability.  The keynote address given by Professor Tim Benton was titled The Challenge of Food Security in 2050: Can we do it Sustainably?  It was a detailed look at global climate change, population growth projections and how agriculture and deforestation now will affect our future dramatically.  It was very apparent that the success of the RSPO is critical on many levels. 

Group session at the RSPO conference.
The format of this conference was quite unconventional, open space technology was used to encourage anyone to take ‘ownership’ of an issue they cared about and invite any and all interested attendees to join the conversation.  We facilitated a discussion on ‘How can zoos positively transform the market?’ along with others from San Diego Zoo, Zoos Victoria and the Zoological Society of London.  We were happy to have representatives from the growers stakeholder group participate in our session to learn more about their needs.  We also joined in on other great topic discussions as well, and really learned a lot about the perspectives of others during this process.

Voting on resolutions at the RSPO.
We are getting ready for the next leg of our travels, visiting Besitang and Bukit Lawang to see RSPO certified and non-certified plantations, a reforestation site, and a successful eco-tourism location where we hope to see orangutans. A representative from OIC (Orangutan Information Centre) will be our guide.  We will be traveling with Adam Ringler of San Diego Zoo and Jacquie O’Brien of Zoos Victoria.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

Three US Zoos Take Leadership Role in Supporting Sustainable Palm Oil Practices

As part of an effort to encourage sustainable palm oil production, San Diego Zoo Global, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Indianapolis Zoo joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and will attend the RSPO conference (RT11) in Indonesia next week. During the conference, the zoos’ representatives will be involved in strategic planning and reviewing of RSPO criteria for certification. Additionally, they will visit RSPO-certified and noncertified palm oil plantations to further their knowledge of industry sustainable and nonsustainable practices.

“Palm oil is used in more than 50% of the manufactured items we find in the grocery store every day,” said Allison Alberts, Ph.D., chief conservation and research officer for San Diego Zoo Global’s Institute of Conservation Research. “The largest threat to orangutans and other tropical wildlife around the globe is deforestation due to agriculture, primarily the production of palm oil.”

The zoos’ memberships in the RSPO add to a growing movement among zoos to become an active voice in the palm oil crisis. Last month, a resolution was unanimously passed at the 68th annual conference of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) in support of the RSPO and encourages all zoos to promote certified sustainable palm oil.

"The vision of the RSPO -- to drive the sustainable palm oil agenda forward to protect our environment, wildlife and communities -- is a transformative journey that involves the cooperation of an extensive group of players," said the RSPO's secretary-general, Darrel Webber. “We welcome the San Diego, Cheyenne Mountain and Indianapolis zoos, whose combined annual visitors exceed 7.5 million, to the RSPO and look forward to working closely with them in helping to educate the broader community about the need to support the sustainable production of palm oil," Webber added.

Conservationists point to the increasing challenges faced by wildlife in Asia and particularly to the effect of palm oil production on high profile species like Sumatran and Bornean orangutans.

“The current generation of wild orangutans could well be the last unless we can find workable solutions for the Indonesian economy, its government and the orangutans,” said Rob Shumaker, Ph.D., the Indianapolis Zoo’s vice president of conservation and life sciences and one of the world’s foremost authorities on orangutan cognition. “RSPO and programs focused on the reforestation of orangutan habitat are critically important to saving orangutans in the wild.”

The Indianapolis Zoo will open a $25 million International Orangutan Center in May 2014.

In 2010, nearly 90% of global palm oil production occurred in Malaysia and Indonesia, and more than half of plantations established since 1990 in those two countries have occurred at the expense of natural forest.  Species like orangutans depend on the Asian forests for survival.  Conservationists estimate that over the last 60 years more than half of all orangutans in these countries have disappeared. The decline of the species is predicted to continue at this rate, primarily because of forest loss.

“By joining the RSPO we are leading by example and are encouraging other North American zoos to make this same commitment,” said Tracey Gazibara, vice president, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. “Together we can raise awareness about the complex issues surrounding palm oil production and fight against extinction of animals and habitats created by unsustainable practices.”

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Palm oil smart phone app helps users save orangutans

By Stephanie Earls. Published by The Gazette - Colorado Springs
(The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
What do Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey, Palmolive dish soap and Friskies cat food have in common?

The answer is sustainable palm oil. 

Palm oil might be the most prevalent product ingredient you've never heard of. 

It's estimated that the edible vegetable oil in its various manifestations can be found in as many as half of the processed foods and packaged products in grocery stores, from snack foods to cosmetics, but that doesn't mean you'll find it listed by name among the ingredients. The highly saturated, trans fat-free oil, harvested from African oil palm trees on plantations in the tropics, is a main component in many preparations of sodium laureth and sodium lauryl sulfates, present in makeup and pretty much every product that foams, from shampoo to dish soap. 

The majority of palm oil is grown and produced on the southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, where natural resources have been leveraged to the industry. Clear-cutting of rainforests to make way for new plantations to meet rising global demands continues to destroy vital habitats for indigenous, endangered animals. 

These animals include the wild orangutan, Asia's only great ape, which makes its home exclusively on Borneo and Sumatra.

"Non-sustainable palm oil is the biggest threat to so many of these species. It's not just orangutans who are affected. It's other animals. It's humans. It's greenhouse gases," said Dina Bredahl, animal care manager for primates and carnivores at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. "We chose orangutans as our focus because we love orangutans. I think for our zoo, they are the best ambassador." 

In its most recent project to raise palm oil awareness, the zoo has developed a smart phone app that helps users choose products containing sustainably produced palm oil. 

The free Palm Oil Shopping Guide app, a digital upgrade of the zoo's paper palm oil shopping guide, includes more than 5,000 products from companies certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an international membership organization that works toward environmentally conscious production of the substance. 

The app, available on Google Play, lets users quickly search for products by name; there's also an alphabetized list of items arranged by category, information on the palm oil crisis and a button for donations. 
(The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
"Humans are going to keep buying and using these products that have vegetable oil in them. We're not going to stop that, and the population of the Earth is growing all the time," lead animal keeper Mandy Hester said. "Palm oil can actually be a better product for the environment if it's grown sustainably because you can get a lot more yield from palm. If it's done the right way, it can actually be a greener product than some other vegetable oils." 

Sustainable palm oil comes from trees grown on land that historically has been used for plantations, rather than a site freshly razed for the purpose. 

"There is land available that was cleared so long ago, that is the land that ideally should be used," Hester said. "But they can actually get more profits from clearing timber because they can then sell the wood for picture frames, furniture, paper." 

Bredahl has been working on the zoo's palm oil campaign since 2007, when she found a dearth of information on the subject and set about to help change that - for Cheyenne Mountain and the greater zoo community. 

"It's kind of been on our radar that there was this thing called palm oil. When you tried to look it up, it wasn't clear what the connection between orangutans and palm oil was," Bredahl said. "People in zoos weren't sure what to tell zoo guests about palm oil. We decided, well, somebody needs to get a handle on that and someone needs to be an expert and we decided to be that expert." 

In 2008, the zoo launched a website explaining palm oil and its devastating impact on wildlife in the areas where it's produced. Also that year came the zoo's Quarters for Conservation program, which allows guests to donate 25 cents from the entrance fee to one of six conservation programs. Money from that campaign helped fuel an ambitious fact-finding mission for Bredahl and Hester, who in 2010 traveled to Southeast Asia for a three-week trip touring rain forests and sustainable plantations and talking with environmental groups and locals about the issue. 
(The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
"We came back and made a resource kit for other zoos to use, we revamped our (paper) shopping guide and revamped our website," Hester said. "It's pretty much about choices. Plantations can choose to grow palm oil in a sustainable way, companies can choose to buy palm oil from those sustainable plantations and consumers can choose to buy products from those companies." 

In 2011, Cheyenne Mountain became the first zoo in the world to join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Others have followed suit. 

"Zoos years ago weren't necessarily conservation organizations," Bredahl said. "Fifty years ago, it was more of the menagerie and sharing animals. Now, it's more about sharing animals so people fall in love with them and want to save them in the wild."


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Save the lives of wild orangutans with the NEW Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping Guide App for smartphones!

You can save wild orangutans, and other endangered Asian animals affected by the palm oil crisis, by using your smartphone! This new FREE downloadable smartphone application lists more than 5,000 products whose manufacturers are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Purchasing products from these companies saves orangutan habitat and lives.

"Palm oil is used to make items we consume every day like food and personal care products," Dina Bredahl, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Animal Care Manager and champion of the Zoo's palm oil awareness conservation program, said. "Purchasing products that are manufactured by RSPO member companies is the easiest thing we can do to help endangered wild orangutans." 

Palm oil comes from the fruit of the African oil palm. The majority of this edible vegetable oil is produced inBorneo and Sumatra. When harvested unsustainably it destroys critical rainforest habitat. 
One organization that seeks to implement global standards for sustainable palm oil is the RSPO. To achieve certification, members must meet stringent environmental and social criteria and protect native wildlife, like orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos. 

In 2011, CheyenneMountain Zoo was the first zoo in the world to join the RSPO. Even before joining, the Zoo created a paper shopping guide that listed RSPO company members. The popularity of the shopping guide led the Zoo's palm oil team in the direction of creating the smartphone shopping guide application.
Make a difference for wild orangutans with three easy steps:

  1. Shop smart! Boycotting palm oil is not the solution. Instead, download the NEW Palm Oil Shopping Guide Phone App, and buy products from companies that are members of the RSPO.
  2. Speak out! If you don't see your favorite brand in the Palm Oil Shopping Guide, send the company an email to tell them how important sustainable palm oil is.
  3. Spread the word! Check out Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's full Palm Oil Resource Kit, and share it with others.