A product many have not even heard of is causing an apocalypse of sorts for the world’s orangutans. In Indonesia and Malaysia, rainforests are being slashed and burned at an alarming rate to make way for a third world cash crop: palm oil.
Palm oil has become almost ubiquitous in household products; it is used in instant ramen dishes, shampoo and conditioner, makeup and skin care products, chocolate-hazelnut spreads and nearly half of all packaged goods at any given supermarket. Many manufacturers have turned to palm oil because it is so cheap—until one factors in the cost to both human health (it is horrible for your heart), and the irreplaceable rainforests both our global ecosystem and the native orangutans depend upon.
To date, over 90 percent of orangutan habitat has already been destroyed. Additionally, smoke and debris from the fires are causing further damage to our primate relatives.
“The problem with fire and smoke is absolutely dire,” said Lis Key, International Animal Rescue’s communications manager in a Takepart interview. “Wild orangutans and orangutans in centers like ours are badly affected by the smoke. Some suffer upper respiratory tract infections, which can even prove fatal. Some of the babies we’ve taken in recently have been suffering not only from dehydration and malnourishment through lack of food but also breathing problems from the polluted air.”
One must wonder if a lower price point is worth the suffering and even possible extinction of living beings.
Luckily, it is not game over for orangutans yet, and there are steps we can all take, right now: boycott products or companies that use non-sustainable palm oil, write to companies that make products you use with this ingredient and tell them you won’t support unsustainable palm oil, educate friends and family and click here. A different ending to this story may yet be possible.