Saturday, December 13th 2014, just another date in many ways, people going about their lives, shopping for Christmas. Many people today will visit their supermarkets, watching what they spend and getting the best deal for themselves and their families unaware of a ruling that comes into place on this day. That new law has taken years to come into effect and it finally bears wings and flies today.
Over 500 million consumers in Europe from today will become aware that palm oil is in their food they eat. Ingredients will have to be clearly labelled, saying exactly what it says on the tin with two clear winners. Sustainable palm oil and more importantly the wildlife that live in the places where palm oil is devastating their homes in the shape of their rainforests. Click here to see the EU law which comes into effect today.
One such place is Sumatra, a place I have visited several times now to be among an animal I find such beauty in, they have brought a smile to my face since childhood, the Orangutan. Being around them brings me such joy and comfort, it’s like being alongside a human being. Peaceful, caring, intelligent, beautiful are a few words that come to mind when I think of these great apes.
Until this day palm oil in our food was hidden, often labelled as vegetable oil misleading the consumers and the true origins of its beginning. Giving people informed choices to buy food items from today is a great result and a small step in the right direction to saving what’s left of the worlds rainforests and in turn some of the most endangered animals anywhere on the planet. Click here to see a very simple guide and what it means.
In 2011, SOS led a coalition of conservation groups, including Elephant Family, Orangutan Foundation, Save the Rhino, the Jane Goodall Institute, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), and the Ape Alliance, in a joint campaign to tackle the problem.
Following their “Clear Labels, Not Forests “campaign, the EU adopted a new law which requires the labelling of specific vegetable oils, including palm oil, on food products throughout Europe. Companies were given three years to comply, and the new legislation comes into force today.
Mandatory labeling will support vital changes in the palm oil industry by allowing shoppers to make informed choices about what they buy. Responsible companies that make or sell products containing palm oil will want to reassure their customers that their products are not contributing to deforestation and loss of wildlife. Retailers and manufacturers now have the incentive to play their part in transforming the palm oil industry and breaking the link between palm oil and deforestation.
Its amazing news and one I wanted to share with the many followers of my blog, the best Christmas for those Orangutans that face a daily struggle to survive and live a peaceful life. I was there in March of this year working with another charity on the ground, shadowing the work of SOCP- Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme who have the only quarantine facility on the island.
I spent two days at that place in Medan the captal of Sumatra, this place is the very end of the line for those crucially endangered Sumatrta Orangutans that have been rescued and confiscated. At times what I saw I couldn’t really speak about or make senmse of, as I sat with baby Sumatran Orangutans looking at me, me looking at them. I cried, I sat and I cried and I really couldn’t understand why man was doing this and how we could inflict such cruelty on an animal that is us and we are them I like to say.
One of the shocking and direct consequences of poaching Orangutans is the death of the mother who is killed in the process of poaching the younger Orangutan. Shock for the baby is devastating and those that survive have a marked existence with so many crucial skills missing. Their lives of forests swapped for a life chained to a post or a cage that’s too small as they grow.
This situation is tolerated and considered normal in Sumatra and Borneo, keeping one of these guardians of the forest can elevate the social status of the person.When they are rescued the road back to the wild is hard without their mother, this makes their independent survival almost impossible. I witnessed many rescued Orangutans during my time in Sumatra. Most have forgotten the pain they went through and forgiven their jailers but just hearing their individual stories sent shivers down my spine and filled me with such sadness
This is my tribute to those Sumatran Orangutans, that are afforded the very highest protection in the world yet are killed every single day in Sumatra and the government does nothing.
I’m going back to Sumatra next year, shadowing the work of those teams once more, things are changing alittle and more interest and knowledge of the plight of those Orangutans and the other rare animals that live on Sumatra are becoming news which is good.
My aim as its always been from day one is to give those Sumatran Orangutans a voice through my work, and since my first visit in 2012 I have kept to that promise I made to those Orangutans I spent time with high in the tree tops. I will continue that promise for as long as I live simply because they are us and we are them and to let them go extinct on our watch would be truly shocking, many thanks.