This Halloween, when you're choosing which candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters, think of the gentle, intelligent orangutan and choose only candy that is made with sustainable palm oil or that contains no palm oil at all.
In the last 20 years, more than 90 percent of orangutan habitat has been destroyed due to deforestation to make room for palm oil plantations.
Palm oil comes from the oil palm, a native plant of West Africa. It grows well in the Far East and bears fruits rich in oil. Indonesia and Malaysia produce 90 percent of the world's palm oil where the plants produce up to ten times more oil per square mile than soybeans, rapeseed or sunflowers.
Peanut butter, margarine and Halloween candy are just a few products made with palm oil that makes products creamier. According to the World Wildlife Federation, it is used in 50 percent of all packaged supermarket products and is a common cooking oil across Asia. It is also becoming more popular as laws encouraging the use of biofuels add to its demand.
Far East governments seem to care more for profits than the habitat of the orangutan and continue to expand plantations that destroy the remaining natural habitat of endangered species. Indonesia has already expanded its plantations over nearly 37,000 square miles, and have plans to develop 70,000 square miles more for plantations over the next decade. It is estimated that palm oil plantations kill around 50 orangutans per week, and their reproduction rate is only one baby every seven years.
Orangutan means "person of the jungle" in the Indonesian language. Six to 12 of these "jungle people" are killed each day for palm oil. They are killed in the deforestation process and when they wander into a palm oil plantation looking for food. Farmers and plantation workers run over orangutans with logging machinery, beat them to death, bury them alive or set them on fire. Orangutans in palm oil plantations are considered to be agricultural pests because they have the potential to damage oil palm crops. If a female orangutan is found carrying a baby, the mother is shot and the baby taken and sold on the illegal pet trade. Orangutans are also sold to circuses where they are beaten and humiliated in order to learn tricks. In some cases, the unthinkable is done to female orangutans when they are captured and tied down in Indonesian brothels and raped on a daily basis. If they aren't killed, they are illegally captured and traded and kept as pets in extremely poor conditions.
Government data have shown that more than 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil in the last two decades. If nothing changes and this pattern of destruction and exploitation continues, Orangutans will be extinct within four to 12 years (as early as 2015) and their jungle habitat will disappear by the year 2050.
When you reach for that candy bar this Halloween, think of the intelligent, gentle, acrobatic orangutan, and give it the chance to celebrate with you for years to come.
to view a document published by the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
for a shopping guide that highlights which manufacturers have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) that promotes ecologically-sound palm oil farming.