What's wrong with Palm Oil
Palm Oil itself is not the issue, apart from the fact that it is full of saturated fat and extremely bad for your health. The problem with Palm Oil is the manner in which it is farmed and manufactured.
Palm Oil comes from Oil Palm Tree which grows in the tropics, it needs a particular environment to grow and fruit. Every Oil palm that is planted needs over 3m diameter clear around each tree. It takes between 3 to 4 years for the Oil Palm to produce it’s first crop of fruit ready for harvest. Large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems with high conservation values have been cleared to make room for oil palm plantations, essentially killing the biodiversity of the ecosystems that they replace.
Unfortunately, many of palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia are on peat soils, which until recently were covered by peat swamp forests. The drainage of these carbon-rich organic soils for plantations is causing massive greenhouse gas emissions.
Drainage of Peatlands
Due to rapid rising demand for palm oil, Malaysia and Indonesia account for around 90% of world palm oil production, in order to sustain the demand, virgin rain forests are being decimated at an alarming rate. In most cases these forests are protected habitat, home to the Orangutan and other endangered species. Over 300 football fields of rainforest are destroyed every HOUR in South East Asia to make way for more Palm Oil Plantations.
According to WWF (World Wildlife Fund) there are approximately 20 million hectares of abandoned land in Indonesia that could be used for Palm Oil Plantations, However, many palm oil companies are tied in with logging firms, the timber is extremely valuable, therefore if they clear virgin forest they get money twice, once for the timber and then later on for the produce from the oil palm trees.
Forest clearing for oil palm plantations
Over 50 Orangutan are killed every week due to deforestation, their homes are bulldozed, they have nowhere to go, nowhere to escape and left starved. When the Orangutan habitat has been destroyed, they often wander onto plantations searching for food, making them vulnerable to poachers. They are run over by excavation equipment, doused in petrol and burnt alive, captured, tortured, beaten, shot with air guns or slaughtered. The orangutan are considered a pest by many of the oil palm companies as they often destroy young palm plants in the hope of finding food.
In many cases the palm oil companies place a bounty on the orangutan. The mothers are shot and their babies sold as they are of value in the illegal pet trade and are kept in captivity in horrendous conditions.
Quote Taken from COP (Centre For Orangutan Protection)
"Orangutans’ poaching is done deliberately as a policy made by palm oil corporations. Therefore they hire local people as pest busters, who serve the corporation with killing any wild animals, including orangutans, which spoil palm oil trees within the plantations. The pest busters will bring up a cut-off hand of an orangutan they have killed and hand it to the corporation as a proof. When they find an adult female orangutan with her baby, they will usually kill the ‘mother‘ and take away the baby for pet or sale".
Impacts on the orangutan
It is not just the orangutan that under severe threat due to Palm Oil plantations. In Kalimantan alone, at least 236 plant species and 51 animal species are facing extinction due to the massive conversion of forests into oil palm plantations.
Some of the other critically endangered species due to oil palm deforestation include the Pygmy Elephant, Sumatran Tiger, Asian Rhinoceros, Sun Bear, Clouded Leopard, Malayan Tapir, Proboscis Monkey, Gibbon and many more.
Some of the other endangered species affected by palm oil
Areas most affected - Sumatra - Kalimantan - Sarawak - Sabah
Impact on the environment
NASA assessment 2006