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Saving the Orangutan in Indonesia

Wednesday 23rd November 2011

Villagers report being offered rewards to kill orangutans by palm oil plantation owners

Indonesia is a country rich in natural resources, not least of which is the rainforest. However, the conflicting demands of landowners and locals and conservationists and the environment, are placing huge pressure on these resources. The Guardian reports today that two men are facing trial charged with breaking the law on national resource conservation, after allegedly being involved in hunting and killing orangutans, a protected species. The men claim that owners of palm oil plantations offered them money to kill the orangutans, who they see as a threat to their crops.

Palm oil means big money in Indonesia, there is a huge global demand for it, and to satisfy that demand swathes of rainforest are cut down so that the palm oil crop can be planted instead. This destroys the natural habitat of many creatures and plants, and international organisations such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund are running high profile campaigns trying to encourage retailers to only buy palm oil that has been certified as sustainable. Palm oil is used in so many products that we consume or use every day, it would be very difficult to avoid it completely, however, some of the UK's largest retailers are working towards 100% of palm oil they use in their own brand products to be certified as sustainable. Top performing UK companies in this respect, according to the World Wildlife Fund, include Asda, Boots, Marks & Spencer, Body Shop, Co-op and Waitrose.

If you want to get more "hands on" with this issue, why not consider a volunteering placement in Borneo, working with orangutans? Real Gap offer a fantastic voluntary project doing just this.