Images of starving orangutans are stark reminders of the true cost of palm oil. The expansion of palm oil plantations on orangutans’ only natural habitat on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra are causing habitat loss, leading surviving orangutans to search elsewhere for food, which sometimes means entering locals’ farmland, which then puts them in danger of being shot and killed.

Although we know the issue is incredibly serious, a new study published in the journal Cell Biology reveals that from 1999-2015, around 150,000 wild orangutans disappeared in Borneo. That is HALF the population. The causes? Habitat loss from palm oil plantations and logging, and humans killing orangutans for their meat or out of fear.

The researchers concluded that education and public policy are key to help stop this rapid decline of orangutan populations. By teaching locals that orangutans are peaceful creatures who are highly unlikely to attack, perhaps fewer people will kill the great apes out of fear, even if they find them searching for food on farmland. And by instilling the idea that eating orangutans is taboo, hopefully, more people will shy away from the socially unacceptable practice. Of course, government intervention by securing protected lands for orangutans and instating punishments for those who hunt or kill them will also help this endangered species survive.

There is a lot you can do to help combat orangutan population decline too. The single greatest thing you can do is become a more conscious consumer. Read all labels. Palm oil is found in about half of the items on supermarket shelves, everything from snack foods and baked goods to soaps and cosmetics. If something contains palm oil, do not buy it. Be aware, palm oil goes by several different names — palm kernel oil and palm fruit oil are also derivatives from the same source. Read this for tips on how to rid your life of palm oil.

The second greatest thing you can do is donate to organizations who are on the frontlines protecting, rescuing, and rehabilitating orangutans. The Rangers of Tangkahan risk their lives every day to protect orangutans by disabling snare traps and defending orangutan territory. Click here to learn more and donate to them. A number of organizations, like International Animal Rescue (IAR), rescue and rehabilitate injured and orphaned orangutans. To learn more about their work and donate to the cause, visit their website.

A third way you can help save orangutans is by educating people about the dangers facing orangutans. Start by sharing this with your network as a lesson on the true cost of palm oil!

Image Source: Pixabay