Last week I covered a story about Karta the orangutan, who is recovering from losing her fifth baby.

I was incredibly moved by her carers at the Adelaide Zoo and their concern for her welfare.

I watched Karta interact with her mate and I could see the sadness in her eyes ; this incredibly intelligent animal was grieving and it was difficult to witness.

This particular news story though, was based on just one example of the species – the bigger picture is even more disturbing.

In the wild the number of these animals is dwindling at a terrifying rate.

As much as I feel so sorry for Karta, a captive 30 year old orangutan, I feel even more worried about the fate of orangutans in their natural habitat.

According to most conservation organisations, orangutans will probably be extinct in the wild within 10 years… 10 years!!

Their homes in Malaysia and Indonesia are being lost to palm oil plantations, forcing whatever animals are left into a dwindling area. Many are poached for the illegal pet trade; many die.

When these forests, their home, are cut down, massive amounts of carbon is released into the air. The bogs in which the forest grows are emptied so palms can be planted.

The world’s escalating demand for palm oil means that deforestation continues at a shocking rate. These forests cannot be replaced and neither can their inhabitants.

Palm oil is used by many residents of Asia; it’s cheap, can take high heat and is readily available.
It’s also found in many processed foods and even in some cosmetics.

On top of this, Malaysia is now using palm oil as a biofuel. But what good is a biofuel if harvesting the raw product destroys the environment?

It’s a terrible price to pay: the extinction of one of the most intelligent, gentle and beautiful creatures on the planet. Isn’t there an alternative?

I asked the primate experts at the zoo what the everyday Australian can do about this and they told me: just do not purchase palm oil.

If you must use it, buy oil which is certified sustainable. I’m not sure how much difference this will really make as the oil is extensively used throughout Asia, every day.

If you need any convincing that this issue is important, go visit Karta at Adelaide Zoo, look into her eyes; that in itself should be enough to persuade any human being that these animals need our help.

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