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Melbourne Zoo highlights plight of orangutans with call for palm oil labelling

Melbourne Zoo highlights plight of orangutans with call for palm oil labelling
July 29, 2016

Melbourne Zoo has marked the birthday of Malu, its Sumatran orang-utan, by highlighting how palm oil plantations in South East Asia are destroying the primates’ natural habitat and with a call for mandatory palm oil labelling on products.

Zoos Victoria is calling on the Federal Government to impose mandatory labelling on products containing palm oil and has already collected more than 50,000 signatures on a petition as part of its Don't Palm Us Off campaign.

Orangutan habitats in South East Asia are being decimated by the clearing of rainforest areas to make way for expanding palm oil plantations. Orangutans not killed when trees are felled are forced to move and compete with other animals for dwindling food sources.

Zoos Victoria Chief Executive Dr Jenny Gray said palm oil was used as an ingredient in more than 50% of the items Australians buy in supermarkets, and was often labelled as vegetable oil.

Dr Gray stated “palm oil, while it's a great oil and people love using it, it's also incredibly destructive on the environment when it's not produced sustainably.”

The Zoo used Malu's birthday to highlight the plight of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans in the wild.

The adventurous teenager sparked a lockdown last year when he escaped from his enclosure, forcing the Zoo's evacuation as keepers tranquilised him and returned it to its night quarters.

Melbourne Zoo Primate keeper Fiona Iacovangelo said Malu is a "typical teenager" and holds a special place in the Zoo's hearts because it was the first Sumatran orangutan to be born in Melbourne in a very long time.

Iacovangelo stated “he certainly is an adventurous boy and very playful - super active - and he's got a bit of an attitude too, which is I guess what you'd expect from a teenage boy.”

With less than 7,000 orangutan estimated to be left in the world, Dr Gray added “people love orang-utan (and) no-one would knowingly do something that would harm them.

"It was incredibly moving to go to Borneo earlier this year and to visit the people at the Borneo orangutan Survival Centre.

"They're doing incredible work rescuing orangutans that have been held as pets and also those animals that literally walk out of the forests, after the fires and destruction of habitat, they are just starving."

Referring to the mandatory labelling of products containing palm oil, Dr Gray concluded “we've been asking for it for over nine years (and) the Government will consider this in November so this is really the moment where we can make a difference and let our voices be heard.”

29th July also marks World Tiger Day and Melbourne Zoo said there were now only about 350 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild, partly due to destruction of habitat to create palm oil plantations.

Image: Malu at Melbourne Zoo.

1st June 2016 - TARONGA ZOO SHINES A LIGHT ON THREATENED SPECIES DURING VIVID SYDNEY

13th July 2015 - ORANGUTAN ESCAPE LEADS TO MELBOURNE ZOO LOCKDOWN

10th August 2014 - ICE CREAM MAKER ELIMINATES PALM OIL BUT LOSES ADELAIDE ZOO DEAL

3rd August 2011 - MELBOURNE ZOO REJECTS PALM OIL EXECUTIVE’S CLAIM OF ORANGUTAN DISTRESS


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