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Oil boom threatens the last orang-utans

A famous British company, Jardines, is profiting as the lowland forest which shelters the few remaining orang-utans is razed to make way for massive palm oil plantations, reports Kathy Marks in Tripa, Indonesia

The Independent, Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Perched halfway up a tree near a bend in the Seumayan River, a young orang-utan lounges on a branch, eating fruit. In the distance, smoke rises from an illegal fire, one of dozens lit to wipe out the virgin rainforest and replace it with oil palm plantations.

It's burning season on Indonesia's Sumatra island, where vast tracts of vegetation are being torched and clear-felled to meet the soaring global demand for palm oil. The pace is especially frenzied in the peat swamp forests of the Tripa region, one of the final refuges of the critically endangered orang-utan and a company owned by one of Britain's most venerable trading groups is among those leading the destructive charge.

Prized for its productiveness and versatility, palm oil is used in everything from lipstick and detergent to chocolate, crisps and biofuels. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world's biggest palm oil producers but they also shelter the last remaining orang-utans, found only on Sumatra and Borneo islands in the same lowland forests that are being razed to make way for massive plantations.



Read full article here

Last Modified - 8th October 2009

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