Requiem for the Orangutan.

17 04 2012

I am so shocked that I really do not know how to start writing this post. I can’t even think of a title that can reflect what I feel right now, and though I try to keep all my posts clearly factual and not influenced by my feelings I know this one will be different.

Upon coming from vacation, and being away from news and reports, I found out that, in Jakarta, the palm oil industry has set fire to the forests to increase the plantation area and by doing this they have killed hundreds of orangutans either by the fire itself or just walking on them and shooting them while being trapped by the flames. The enmity of palm plantation owners and workers toward orangutans is long known, mainly because the orangutan, due to the reduction of their habitat predate on the palm trees, they need to eat, you know?

But the enormity of this is just unbelievable, with hundreds of these animals dead in one single event the population has been decimated possibly beyond repair. This has tragic proportions, researchers believe that the orangutans could become extinct in weeks to months. Several animals are in medical care, with people trying to save their lives, which due to the smoke and flames, are in danger. Blessings to the good people around the world. However, it is unlikely that the fate of the species in the wild will be different if these few animals are saved.

This is just terrible. I never thought that in this age that we live in I would see anything like this. Surely in the past we have pushed to extermination several species, and through slow habitat destruction we continue to do so, but the knowledge we have today, the understanding of population dynamics, habitat reduction and interspecific interactions should keep us from committing crimes like this. And all we can do is read the news with disbelief, because there is really not much we can do about what already has happened.

Several people, and groups have tried to warn about the palm oil industry for years, haranguing people not to buy good that contain palm oil. The main problem comes from the fact that palm oil is many times not listed as “palm oil” making it virtually impossible to know that you are buying it. Some of the names that palm oil goes by are:

Sorry, honey, we totally failed you.
Stock provided by NefaroStock at

-Vegetable Oil

-Vegetable Fat
-Sodium Laureth Sulfate (in almost everything that foams)
-Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
-Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)

-Palm Kernel
-Palm Oil Kernel

-Palm Fruit Oil

-Glyceryl Stearate
-Stearic Acid
-Elaeis Guineensis
-Palmitic Acid
-Palm Stearine
-Palmitoyl oxostearamide
-Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3
-Steareth -2
-Steareth -20

-Sodium Kernelate
-Sodium Palm Kernelate

-Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate
-Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
-Hyrated Palm Glycerides
-Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye
-Cetyl Palmitate
-Octyl Palmitate
-Cetyl Alcohol

-Palmityl Alchohol

(list retrieved from Say No To Palm Oil)

So how are you to know that “Vegetable oil” is palm oil and not, let’s say, soy oil? Or canola oil? This is how hard it is not to support the bastards that just killed the orangutan as a species.

So, while the Western World decries the most insignificant actions from other countries (OMG that French white model is posing as a black person in another country that has not had the same cultural or historical issues than US!!!) and we always talk about boycotting this or that company just because we do not like how much they charge, or we do not like their logo as in the London Olympics (I know, such a deep reason!), I feel powerless when I decide to really want to not buy this product.

This is, I think, where the power of government would be of use. Palm oil should be labeled as such, period, not as an unspecific name. Furthermore, I believe that since the Western World always is speaking about their deep concern for the species, environment and other Peoples, they should just shun Jakarta from any commercial transaction. After all, why would we keep negotiating with people that do not hold to our standards, that have completely different points of view about what is acceptable and what is not? In our private life, we reserve the right to invite people into our homes, or to shop in this or that market, why don’t we exercise that same right as a country?

This is the only way we'll ever see orangutans again. Behind bars in zoos.
Stock provided by DigitalHallucination at