“Palm oil is used in more than 50% of the manufactured items we find in the grocery store every day,” said Allison Alberts, Ph.D., chief conservation and research officer for San Diego Zoo Global’s Institute of Conservation Research. “The largest threat to orangutans and other tropical wildlife around the globe is deforestation due to agriculture, primarily the production of palm oil.”
The zoos’ memberships in the RSPO add to a growing movement among zoos to become an active voice in the palm oil crisis. Last month, a resolution was unanimously passed at the 68th annual conference of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) in support of the RSPO and encourages all zoos to promote certified sustainable palm oil.
“The vision of the RSPO — to drive the sustainable palm oil agenda forward to protect our environment, wildlife and communities — is a transformative journey that involves the cooperation of an extensive group of players,” said the RSPO’s secretary-general, Darrel Webber. “We welcome the San Diego, Cheyenne Mountain and Indianapolis zoos, whose combined annual visitors exceed 7.5 million, to the RSPO and look forward to working closely with them in helping to educate the broader community about the need to support the sustainable production of palm oil,” Webber added.
Conservationists point to the increasing challenges faced by wildlife in Asia and particularly to the effect of palm oil production on high profile species like Sumatran and Bornean orangutans.
“The current generation of wild orangutans could well be the last unless we can find workable solutions for the Indonesian economy, its government and the orangutans,” said Rob Shumaker, Ph.D., the Indianapolis Zoo’s vice president of conservation and life sciences and one of the world’s foremost authorities on orangutan cognition. “RSPO and programs focused on the reforestation of orangutan habitat are critically important to saving orangutans in the wild.”
The Indianapolis Zoo will open a $25 million International Orangutan Center in May 2014.
In 2010, nearly 90% of global palm oil production occurred in Malaysia and Indonesia, and more than half of plantations established since 1990 in those two countries have occurred at the expense of natural forest. Species like orangutans depend on the Asian forests for survival. Conservationists estimate that over the last 60 years more than half of all orangutans in these countries have disappeared. The decline of the species is predicted to continue at this rate, primarily because of forest loss.
“By joining the RSPO we are leading by example and are encouraging other North American zoos to make this same commitment,” said Tracey Gazibara, vice president, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. “Together we can raise awareness about the complex issues surrounding palm oil production and fight against extinction of animals and habitats created by unsustainable practices.”
About Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society was founded in 1926. Today, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, America’s ONLY mountain zoo, offers comprehensive education programs, exciting conservation efforts and truly fantastic animal experiences. It is Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s hope that guests fall in love with animals and nature, and take action to protect them. Of the 224 zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of just nine operating without tax support. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo depends on admissions, membership dues and donations for funding.
About Indianapolis Zoo
Located in White River State Park downtown, the Indianapolis Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Association of Museums as a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden. The mission of the Indianapolis Zoo is to empower people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation.
About Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
The RSPO is a not-for-profit association that brings together stakeholders from all sectors of the palm oil industry – oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, social and developmental NGOs, and environmental and nature conservation NGOs. The RSPO seeks to transform the market to make sustainable palm oil the norm.
About World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA)
World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the unifying organization for the world zoo and aquarium community. Our more than 300 members are leading zoos, aquariums, associations, affiliate organizations and corporate partners from around the world. With more than 700 million visitors annually, together we are ‘United for Conservation.’
CONTACT: PUBLIC RELATIONS, SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL, 619-685-3291