Equivalent of 300 Football Fields Destroyed Every Hour for Palm Oil
Cultivating the product, found in most processed foods and cosmetics, kills animals and displaces people.
A hundred years ago, an estimated 230,000 orangutans roamed the earth. Today, fewer than 50,000 are left in the wild, living exclusively on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra — islands that happen to be ground zero of one of the world’s most controversial and rapidly growing industries: palm oil.
Over the past 20 years, tens of thousands of wild orangutans have been killed, maimed or orphaned as a direct result of the palm oil industry.
Since 2006, the year Kesi was rescued, an estimated 1,500 orangutans have been clubbed to death after wandering onto palm oil plantations. Thousands more have died due to the widespread deforestation caused by the cultivation of palm oil.
The habitat destruction and conversion of forest associated with palm oil is “currently the greatest threat” to the future of wild orangutans, whose survival is entirely dependent on the health of rainforests, said Robert Shumaker, the Indianapolis Zoo’s vice president of conservation and life sciences.
“[Extinction] will be the sad reality if forest continues to be destroyed to promote the development of palm oil,” he said.
Experts estimate that orangutans could be extinct in the wild in 25 years or less if this rate of loss continues.
The impact that this ubiquitous commodity — now a $44-billion-a-year industry — has already had on the planet is staggering. Activists say it is one of the most pressing environmental and humanitarian concerns of our time.
The equivalent of 300 football fields of rainforest is destroyed every hour to make way for palm oil plantations, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. This destruction has decimated the habitat of endangered creatures, deeply scarred local communities and is a critical — though oft-overlooked — factor in climate change.
A lack of transparency in the industry means there are no reliable numbers to show the exact extent of deforestation caused specifically by palm oil. However, many environmentalists agree that palm oil, along with timber for paper and pulp, is one of the leading drivers of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. The two countries produce more than 85 percent of the world’s supply between them. Most oil palms are grown on the islands of Sumatra, in Indonesia, and Borneo, which is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
Source: Palm Oil Is In Everything — And It’s Destroying Southeast Asia’s Forests | The Huffington Post