AboutZoos, Since 2008


Three US Zoos take lead­er­ship role in sup­port­ing sus­tain­able palm oil practices

pub­lished 09 Novem­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 03 Novem­ber 2014

As part of an effort to encour­age sus­tain­able palm oil pro­duc­tion, San Diego Zoo Global, the Cheyenne Moun­tain Zoo and the Indi­anapo­lis Zoo joined the Round­table on Sus­tain­able Palm Oil (RSPO) and will attend the RSPO con­fer­ence (RT11) in Indone­sia next week.

Palmoil plantationDur­ing the con­fer­ence, the zoos’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives will be involved in strate­gic plan­ning and review­ing of RSPO cri­te­ria for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Addi­tion­ally, they will visit RSPO-​certified and non­cer­ti­fied palm oil plan­ta­tions to enhance their knowl­edge of industry’s sus­tain­able and non-​sustainable practices.

Palm oil is used in more than 50% of the man­u­fac­tured items we find in the gro­cery store every day. The largest threat to orang­utans and other trop­i­cal wildlife around the globe is defor­esta­tion due to agri­cul­ture, pri­mar­ily the pro­duc­tion of palm oil.
(Alli­son Alberts, Ph.D., chief con­ser­va­tion and research offi­cer for San Diego Zoo Global’s Insti­tute of Con­ser­va­tion Research)

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.

An exam­ple of how sus­tain­able palm oil pro­duc­tion can be pro­moted is this cam­paign video of Zoos Vic­to­ria in Australia:

“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.”

A list of Envi­ron­men­tal & Con­ser­va­tion NGO’s that are RSPO mem­ber, show­ing the three US Zoos are in good company.

(Source: Cheyenne Moun­tain Zoo press release, 07.11.2013)

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Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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