As appreciative supporters of nature and wildlife, we at Houston PetTalk want to promote education and conservation of the world’s animal population. Each month in our print publication, we  bring you information on conservation efforts that are of special interest or have some connection to Houston through the Houston Zoo or other local organizers. In the October issue, we are highlighting the conservation work for Orangutans at the Houston Zoo. Due to space restrictions, we could not include this important information about how the Palm Oil industry in endangering Orangutans. Be sure to read the article in PetTalk as well as this Palm Oil information. The Houston Zoo participates in more than two dozen conservation projects around the world.  You can help by making a donation at or by visiting the Houston Zoo – a portion of your admission or Membership is dedicated to conservation projects. Photo copyright: Hutan.

Orangutans and other wildlife of these regions compete against Malaysia and Indonesia’s cash crop – palm oil. These islands, and the majority of their wildlife, have survived past competitors, including tobacco farming in the early 1900s and decades of clearing primary forests for logging industries, but the Palm Oil Industry has proven to be a nearly fatal blow to the survival of wildlife. In fact, palm oil plantations and the logging industries have accounted for the loss of nearly 75% of the original rainforest habitat for orangutans, elephants, rhinos, tigers, and many more species.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis). The oil is extracted from the fruit and kernel, and has been used for medicine and as a source of food for thousands of years. The majority of palm oil is grown and produced on Borneo and Sumatra, although the crop is also grown in Africa and South America.

You probably eat and use palm oil every day – it is found in many foods, cosmetics and bath products. You can look for palm oil on product labels – it is also sometimes called palm kernel oil, palmitate and palmitic acid. Next time you’re shopping, consider replacing these products with others that do not contain palm oil.

Valuable tracts of rainforest are continuing to be cut down to make room for expanding palm oil plantations. Palm oil plantations are not part of the rainforest; it is an introduced agricultural crop. The continued demand for this product will continue the loss of habitat and the decline in wildlife populations.

“People of the Forest” sounds regal and reserved, but orangutans are in desperate trouble, with populations declining rapidly. For such a peaceful animal they are at the heart of a palm oil controversy that literally spans the globe and affects nearly every consumer in developed countries. This is an issue where every decision we make can and will affect the lives of wild Bornean and Sumatran orangutans.

For more information about palm oil visit