Worldwide Conservation Efforts

Does Your Candy Harm an Orangutan?

Tropical rain forests are vital to not only orangutans, but to other endangered wildlife, and indeed to all of us on Earth. Rain forests and related ecosystems help regulate climate, improve water quality, provide erosion control and maintain biodiversity.

Rain forests need to be sustainably managed to maintain these benefits, however, and one of the biggest threats is unsustainable palm oil plantation development.

Palm oil is now the second most popular edible oil. Viewed by many as a good alternative to trans-fats, it is found in candy, cookies, baked goods, shampoo, cosmetics, pet foods and even cleaning products. And it is killing orangutans.

Palm oil trees are an introduced agricultural crop, primarily grown in Borneo and Sumatra — also home to many endangered species of animals. When palm oil is produced at certified sustainable plantations and mills, rain forest areas are protected. However, non-sustainable plantations result in the destruction of critical habitat for orangutans, elephants, tigers, sun bears, rhinos and many other animals. Orangutans in particular are predicted  to become extinct in the wild within 15 years if the palm oil industry, deforestation and burning of peat forest do not change.

There is good news, though. Manufacturers, government organizations and others have collaborated to create the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and are committed to supporting certified sustainable palm oil consumption. Many companies have joined the RSPO and made a pledge to use only sustainable palm oil in their products, and thereby protect vulnerable habitats and animals.

It’s nearly impossible to ban palm oil completely, but the Virginia Zoo is committed to being part of the sustainable palm oil solution both by choosing palm oil free products and by purchasing products from organizations that are part of the RSPO as much as possible. Each year, the Virginia Zoo also makes it a priority to buy and distribute palm oil free candy to guests at the annual ZooBoo event in celebration of Halloween.

For a list of US companies that are members of the RSPO, click here.

For a fact sheet about palm oil, click here.

The Virginia Zoo is very grateful to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo for their leadership on palm oil and its affect on wild animals and for their generosity in producing and sharing materials about this complex issue.  For up-to-date information, please visit their website at