The Fate of Orangutans Is in Cargill’s Hands

posted by Rainforest Action Network

A baby orangutan with its mother at Tanjung Puting, IndonesiaWould you expect to get shot over 100 times in your own neighborhood? Probably not, but that’s what recently happened to a female orangutan when an agribusiness giant decided to set up shop by her house.

Aan, a 15 year old orangutan, was shot by a plantation worker after wandering into a palm plantation, a place that, although no longer familiar, used to be part of her neighborhood. She miraculously survived, earning her the title ‘badass’ by medics, but she sustained serious wounds and was left blind.

This is one of many tragic stories illustrating what has become part of orangutans’ everyday lives in Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s rainforests.

Over the last few months there has been increasing media coverage about the plight of orangutans. According to Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), it is estimated that orangutan populations have decreased by roughly 50% in the wild. In Borneo, hunters alone have killed 750 orangutans in the past year. Today, stories of orangutans being burned, killed, captured, starved, and evicted from their own habitat are not uncommon. The increasing media coverage on orangutan extinction by high profile media outlets like NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams”, CNN’s “Headline News with Jane Velez-Mitchell”, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, Reuters, Huffington Post, Fox News, and the Jakarta Post all points to how important and alarming the issue is.

Perhaps the most shocking part of all this is that, as a consumer in this country, you are likely part of the reason why orangutans are on the brink of extinction. Thanks to Cargill, of course.

Palm oil is used in everything from lipstick to laundry detergent to Girl Scout cookies, meaning almost all of us are unwittingly bringing this rainforest-destroying product into our homes. Palm oil is labeled under many different names and more often than not it is hidden as a sub-ingredient you’re not likely to recognize as palm oil.

Agribusiness giants like Cargill are supplying us with these neatly packaged, palm oil-laden products. We are unwittingly driving demand for these controversial products, which feeds Cargill’s destructive business model.

Until recently, one could be forgiven for not being aware of the direct connection between the consumption of palm oil and the imminent threat of extinction facing orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia. But for companies like Cargill at the center of this controversy, this excuse is running out.

The expansion of palm oil plantations is one of the largest drivers of deforestation in Indonesia, destroying the habitat of unique tropical species as well as generating social conflict in the process. Orangutans’ homes are being transformed into acres and acres of palm oil plantations on a daily basis. To add insult to injury, plantation workers often kill orangutans as they wander into the plantations that used to be their homes. They are considered to be pests that damage the oil palm plants and plantation workers disturbingly deal with them by shooting them down.

Orangutans’ homes are being destroyed, as is their source of food and way of life. Yet when they are left wandering to look for a new home, it seems like they are being punished for it.

We can help change the stark reality orangutans currently face. We’ve come up with a partial list of the different names of palm oil that can be found on labels at the supermarket for you to avoid. But that isn’t enough. That’s why we are continuing to challenge Cargill, the largest American trader of palm oil, with our hard-hitting campaigns to stop the company from supplying our supermarkets with rainforest destruction. Cargill must adopt palm oil supply chain safeguards to guarantee that the palm oil it supplies and trades is not linked to deforestation, social conflict and species extinction.

But Cargill won’t do the right thing on its own accord, so please join us.