While it is a myth that redheads are going extinct the same cannot be said about ginger primates, our dear cousins, the orangutans.
These beautiful mammals live in Indonesia and Malaysia on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, and their natural habitat, the rainforest, is under attack by farmers wanting the land to grow palm oil, an ingredient widely used in food and non-food items all over the world.
The farmers often see these ginger creatures as pests, and even offer rewards for them to be killed. In the past 20 years, they’ve lost 80% of their habitat.
If we continue at the current rate we are demanding and consuming palm oil, it is predicted that orangutans will be extinct within 25 years. To think that future generations will never see this beautiful animal is unfathomable. And it’s not just orangutans that are in danger – the Indonesian rainforest is home to other endangered species too, like rhinos and elephants.
There are several ways we can all help with the plight of orangutans, and to help save the ginger primates before they go extinct…
Support orangutan charities
There are charities actively making a difference that you can support. Here are some to explore:
- The Orangutan Foundation: A conservation charity whose Indonesian staff are saving orangutans by protecting their tropical forest habitat, working with local communities and promoting research and education. You can adopt an orphaned orangutan or sponsor the charity with monetary donations or volunteer to work in Borneo to give hands-on help to save the primates and the rainforest.
- Orangutan Appeal UK: This charity has volunteer opportunities and are especially calling out for anyone with veterinary experience. Again, you can donate money but they also have an e-card scheme which is environmentally friendly (no trees chopped down to make cards) and raises money by donating what you would have spent on a card towards the charity. They work closely with the Centre Of Orangutan Protection in Indonesia. (I also love that their uniform and branding is orange…or rather, ginger.)
- Sumatran Orangutan Society: Raising money to fund the projects actively working to save the orangutans and their habitat. Currently they have a competition where supporters can win a holiday to see the beautiful rainforest and orangutan as well as see the positive movement the cause is making (second prize is a photography experience with orangutans and third prize is a limited edition picture of…an orangutan).
Don’t buy palm oil products
You can also make a difference by thinking about what brands you invest in when buying food and non-food products. If the demand for palm oil is lost then the market will collapse and money is a big influence.
It’s not as easy as you might think to cut palm oil out as it is present in so many products. Check the label for palm oil and if it’s in there, move on. Here is a list of some of the names used to list palm oil in products:
- PKO – Palm Kernel Oil
PKO fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin (PKs); Palm Kernel Olein (PKOo)
PHPKO – Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil
FP(K)O – Fractionated Palm Oil
OPKO – Organic Palm Kernel Oil
Palmitate* – Vitamin A or Asorbyl Palmitate
Sodium Laureth Sulphate (Can also be from coconut)
Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (can also be from ricinus oil)
Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
Chemicals which contain palm oil
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (coconut and/or palm)
Hydrated palm glycerides
Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid)
*Names with palmitate or palmate at the end are usually derived from palm oil
Choose RSPO-certified products
If it is too difficult to avoid palm oil altogether you can choose products by brands that are using sustainable palm oil plantation farms. These farms use already cultivated land and work in ways to minimise their impact to the natural environment. They will brag about their product being RSPO-certified, so look out for the logo on products:
You can also download an app to check which products and brands made the RSPO-certified list.