Is it an anteater? A baby hippo? A warthog? A tapir? In fact, it is actually a babirusa, a member of the pig family Suidae The words babi-rusa mean pig-deer in the Malay language. Unfortunately, babirusa are endangered due to poaching and habitat loss and can only be found on a few islands in Indonesia. Want to know more? Visit the Wortham World of Primates during the month of March for daily keeper chats about these amazing animals.
We kickoff the month with National Pig Day on March 1st, a day when zoos and other organizations throughout the country celebrate pigs. And on March 26 & 27th a ‘Spotlight on Species’ event will be held from 10a.m. to 3p.m. focusing on Houston’s own Babirusa pair, Jambi and Remley. Keepers and volunteers will be holding a fundraiser during this ‘Spotlight on Species’ to raise money that will go to conservation efforts in Indonesia aimed at protecting the endangered babirusa.
How is this related to Wildlife Conservation – really? Yes, there is a method and message, to our madness…
Palm Oil and The Great Chocolate Debate. It can help save the lives of Orangutans and many other species living on Borneo and Sumatra. Palm oil is a form of edible vegetable oil produced from the African oil plam tree (Elaeis guineensis) which has been planted on plantations throughout Malaysia and Indonesia, home to some of the world’s most endangered wildlife. These plantations replace tropical rainforest acreage in staggering numbers.
Rainforest? No. Palm Oil Plantation? Yes.
What we are asking you to do is to be a responsible consumer and purchase products from companies which either do not use palm oil or are part of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm oil. You can do that by taking a quick look at this Orangutan Friendly Palm Oil Valentine Guide.
We are much too impatient these days. When was the last time you spent a few extra minutes at the grocery store looking at an ingredient label? Those extra few minutes can help protect orangutans in the wild.
Due to its low cost, Palm Oil has replaced many of the saturated fats and other vegetable oils that at one time were part of many of the processed foods we purchase in the store. Oil Palms produce more oil per hectare of land than any other oil producing crop – clearly it is the cheaper alternative for companies. But many of these companies look away at the removal of both wildlife and forest to produce palm oil products. Although large companies such as Unilever and Nestle’s have suggested they are moving to a sustainable palm oil product, there are still dozens of large companies who are not, and in turn, fuel the trade in palm oil from poorly managed plantations who will kill wildlife and burn forests to clear land for production.
Orangutans are found only on the islands of Sumatra (Indonesia) and Borneo (made up of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei). 85% of the worlds plam oil comes out of Indonesia and Malaysia. The third largest forest nation with 120 million hectares, Indonesia is subsequently the world’s third largest carbon polluter and loses more than 1 million hectares per year due to illegal logging, illicit land clearing and forest fires. About 90 percent of the approximately 40,000 wild orangutans live in Indonesia, between Sumatra and Borneo islands, while the remaining 10 percent can be found in Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia. Both species of orangutans have been place on the red list of The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with The Sumatran species listed as critically endangered.
Palm oil plantation and habitat loss
Orangutans are potentially disappearing at the rate of up to 2,000 individuals per year due to loss of habitat and hunting pressures. Loss of habitat is specifically due to increasing plam oil plantations as well as pulp and paper concessions.
I was in Walgreens last week and picked up two bags of a similiar product. One had plam oil in the ingredient, the other did not and was the same price or less. The decision was easy, and only added a few seconds to my trip. Is it worth it? Take a look at your food and even health care packaging (Dove, shampoos, etc.) at home. What percentage of the product you now buy contains palm oil?
Palm oil production has been documented as a cause of substantial and often irreversible damage to the natural environment. It’s impacts include deforestation, habitat loss for critically endangered species, and a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Make a statement with your shopping habits, it is the only way left in keeping orangutans off the extinction list.