Chester Zoo’s mission to save orangutan homes in the wild gathers momentum across the UK


FOUR new regions across the UK are committed to becoming ‘sustainable palm oil communities’, following the pioneering path laid out by Chester.

The County of Dorset, the town of Plymouth, the town of Saltash in Cornwall and the village of Mochdre in North Wales have all embarked on this ambitious program – led by environmentalists at Chester Zoo – as its rollout nationwide is accelerating.

The major initiative is designed to protect vital wildlife habitat and prevent the extinction of species, such as critically endangered orangutans.

Unsustainable palm oil production destroys large areas of rainforest – to provide the ingredient for food and household products consumed in the UK and around the world.

Chester became the world’s first sustainable palm oil community in 2019, with the project launching in Oxford and Newquay shortly thereafter.

The movement demands that restaurants, schools, workplaces and attractions in every community use and support sustainable palm oil, which leading conservationists, conservation organizations, charities say and NGOs, supported by detailed scientific research, is the best way to prevent habitat destruction and protect it. biodiversity.

Cat Barton, Field Programs Manager at Chester Zoo and Deforestation-Free Raw Materials Specialist, said: “Despite significant progress, products containing unsustainable palm oil are still entering the UK every day.

“However, as more places join our new Sustainable Palm Oil Communities movement to demand sustainability, pressure is mounting on major suppliers to change and evolve towards deforestation-free palm oil.

“Our movement is already helping companies in Chester, Oxford and Newquay influence their suppliers to switch to sustainable ingredients. These changes are then passed down the chain to other customers – it’s a snowball effect.

“Now we are seeing this effect spreading across the UK. We’re on the verge of making sustainable palm oil the norm.

“Together, we can create a turning point in the fight to prevent extinction and have a hugely positive impact on wildlife, by pushing key supply chains to shift to sustainable, deforestation-free ingredients.

“The UK government has underlined an urgent need to switch to deforestation-free products as part of its new environmental bill. The Chester Zoo is fully committed to continuing to do everything in our power to move this forward and make sure it happens.

“Right now we are on the verge of losing cash forever and so the natural world depends on it.”

Nearly 100 world-renowned conservation organizations, including Chester Zoo, WWF, Jane Goodall Institute, Conservation International and Save the Rhino, as well as NGOs working in Southeast Asia, the epicenter of the problem, are advocating adopting sustainable palm oil and stopping deforestation has long been the best solution to the palm oil crisis.

Efeca, a leading consultancy providing business support for the sustainable and legal sourcing of natural resources, is leading the movement to make the whole of Dorset County a sustainable palm oil community.

Emily Fripp, Director of Efeca, said: “Having worked with multinationals and governments on sustainable palm oil for many years, everyone at Efeca wanted to give something back to our local community.

“We worked alongside Chester and Chester Zoo when they achieved their Sustainable Palm Oil Town status, so now we want to help Dorset become the world’s first sustainable palm oil county. the south coast will continue to grow over the next year.

Conservation experts say that if consumers and organizations were to stop using palm oil altogether, an alternative supply would have to be found for the global demand for edible vegetable oils. With other oil crops – such as coconuts, soybeans, olives, sunflowers and corn – being less productive per square kilometer, this would result in even more land being cleared and converted to agriculture. Experts also argue that the only way to create change within the industry to achieve better outcomes for wildlife is to engage with the industry itself.

The sustainable production of palm oil dictates that there must be no planting on peatlands, no fires to clear the land, human rights must be respected and, above all, according to the new 2018 criteria of the Table round on sustainable palm oil (RSPO), it must be deforestation-free.

Faye Sherlock, Sustainable Communities Project Manager at Chester Zoo, added: “The palm oil issue is complex and not at all black and white. Because of its high yield on small areas compared to other oil crops, the palm oil boycott is counterproductive; shifting the problem elsewhere, creating even greater habitat loss and negative impact on biodiversity.

“We therefore firmly believe that part of the solution is to embrace sustainable palm oil without deforestation – raising awareness among individuals, communities and businesses and creating increased demand for sustainable development.

“The industry is not going anywhere because other countries will continue to buy unsustainable palm oil, even if we in the UK stop buying it. This is why we have to create a whole change in the industry.

“If we don’t engage the industry, we won’t change the industry. Indeed, this should apply to all products. Simply avoiding a product is not a good solution if we are serious about improving the outlook for wildlife, on a global scale. The answer must be to work together to make all agricultural deforestation free.

“Sometimes environmental problems can make people powerless. But, with palm oil, we can all make a difference. Consumers have the power to drive change by choosing products and supporting companies that use sustainable palm oil, as this in turn increases demand from suppliers and producers.

“Together, we can all play our part in helping to stop deforestation. By embracing a more sustainable future, we can end this crisis before it’s too late and stop the loss of habitat for orangs- utans and other endangered species. ”

Several other organizations in Chester, including Ginger Monkey Number 31, Neighborhood Bakehouse and The Bear Bakery, have now signed the pledge to sustainable palm oil, adding to the growing number of stores, schools and businesses in the city that are part of the vital program.

Chester restaurants and grocery stores now display the campaign logo in their windows – to help educate consumers and enable sustainable choices.

Larger organizations in the city have also embraced the program, including school meal providers Edsential, which provide more than 5.5 million meals to children each year.

Katie Worden, a recent graduate from the University of Chester, is the founder of the Sustainable Palm Oil Community movement in Saltash, Cornwall. Katie said: “Having spent time in Chester and seeing the positive impact of the Sustainable Palm Oil Communities campaign there, I wanted to bring it to my hometown of Landrake and neighboring Saltash.

“Along with my grandmother Rose, we believe this is a crucial but rare opportunity to hold the biggest polluters to account through community mobilization, and for young people to take charge.”

Llywela Tommis, primary school teacher at Ysgol Cystennin, supports the movement in Mochdre in North Wales.

She said, “It’s so inspiring to see my students’ passion for protecting the world’s rainforests and the wonderful species that live there.

“I empower and encourage our students to take the lead in this community project, in which we hope to be Wales’ first sustainable palm oil community.

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