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NEW: Frequently Asked Questions About the El Paso Zoo Palm Oil Guide and Scanner

Help orangutans and other Asian animals end the "Palm Oil Crisis"

The El Paso Zoo's Palm Oil Shopping Guide

El Paso Zoo Employee Travels to Malaysia and Indonesia
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What is palm oil?

Palm oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree (a tropical species that originated in West Africa but now grows as a hybrid in many parts of the world, including South East Asia, Central America and South America). Palm Oil is the most productive vegetable oil crop and yields more oil per hectare than any other major oilseed commodity. It is now found in at least four out of every ten supermarket products, including food, candy, and personal products. The world's consumption of palm oil is doubling every 10 years.

What is the problem?

On current trends, demand for palm oil is predicted to more than double by 2030 and triple by 2050. A 2007 United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report identified oil palm plantations as the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia. Palm oil is produced from plantations that continue the practice of cutting down critical wildlife habitat to expand their plantations.

Palm oil expansion has gone hand in hand with social conflict. With millions of people depending on forests for their livelihoods, clearing natural forests to make way for monocultures leads to disputes and forces communities to change their way of life. In the last decade, nearly 80% of deforestation in Sumatra's peat swamp was driven by the expansion of oil palm plantations.

Palm oil can cause heart disease and is not recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In Indonesia and Malaysia where 85% of the world's palm oil is produced, rainforests and peat swamp forests are being logged, cleared and burned to plant oil palm plantations. The ongoing destruction of these rainforest and peat swamp forest ecosystems is threatening the survival of the orangutan, as well as the Sumatran tiger, Asian rhino, Asian elephant, and hundreds of other species.

What is El Paso Zoo doing?

As advocates for wildlife, the El Paso Zoo believes the only way to save these species and forest habitats and slow the uncontrolled expansion of oil palm plantations is to reduce palm oil consumption, and therefore the demand for palm oil.

The El Paso Zoo is committed to avoiding or minimizing the use or sale of products that contain palm oil, and is working towards its ultimate goal - to be palm oil-free. Through the El Paso Zoo Conservation Fund, the El Paso Zoo supports wildlife conservation projects in Sumatra that help protect and conserve the Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran tiger, Asian rhino, Asian elephant and a range of other animal and plant species and their habitats. Current projects include The Tesso Nilo National Park and The Orangutan Information Centre in Sumatra Indonesia.

The El Paso Zoo has created the Palm Oil Shopping Guide designed to help consumers better understand what products contain palm oil and what products do not.

What are other Zoos and Organizations Doing?

The El Paso Zoo believes that there is no single silver bullet solution to solving the palm oil crisis. Not only do we need to pressure companies in the United States to use only 100% sustainable palm oil, but also companies in India and China, the largest consumers of palm oil. One way we can do this is to contact companies that use palm oil on a global scale that have businesses in the United States. Examples of these companies include Kentucky Fried Chicken and Maruchan, the top selling ramen noodle soup brand. Maruchan produces over 3.6 billion packages of ramen products a year.

Some zoos and conservation organizations believe that the best way for consumers to respond to the palm oil crisis is to support the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil. To learn more you can download the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo app at Although the El Paso Zoo believes that the best approach to solving this crisis is to boycott palm oil products completely, we respect the approaches of others who also care passionately about this conservation concern. Once the Zoo identifies 100% sustainable and traceable palm oil products in the US we will ask our app developer to design a way that the scanner can identify these products and let people know about the difference.

The El Paso Zoo is not against organic and sustainable palm oil. Our position on palm oil use in the United States is aligned with that of Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network, as well as consumer groups in demanding that palm oil used should be traceable. Only with traceable palm oil, can we determine whether that product has been produced sustainably or not. Our research into products in the US that contain palm oil has so far shown that none of the major brands can confirm that their products use 100% sustainable, traceable palm oil. If you know of products that use palm oil from 100% sustainable sources, please let us know. If we can confirm their supply source, we would be more than happy to include these brands as a preferred choice to their competitors. Just recently we learned that Tofurky announced it position on organic palm oil - finally we are seeing a US Product switching to 100% sustainable and traceable palm oil - they are importing it from Brazil!

Here is their official statement on the switch: "In an effort to produce a flaky crust for our new Tofurky Pot Pie and Quiche that runs through our crust making equipment, we have decided to start out using Certified Organic Palm Oil from Agropalma in Brazil. We are keenly aware and concerned about the issues surrounding the use of palm oil in vegan products. We believe that there are serious problems with the production of this ingredient by less than reputable companies, particularly in SE Asia. The practices of these companies and their effect on ecosystems and wildlife are deplorable. Particularly the impact on orangutan populations has been thoroughly documented and is real It is also true that many producers of palm oil attempt to green wash their practices and take cover through the industry dominated RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).

After careful research and discussion, we believe that Agropalma is vastly different from other producers of palm oil for the following reasons:

*they are organic certified by Quality Assurance International, a major US certification agency
*they received the highest sustainability rating of any palm oil producer from GREENPEACE
*they are fair trade certified by EcoSocial, a Brazilian based fair trade program
*they only plant on recovered land that has not had native vegetation on it since 2005 *of the 109,000 hectares that they own, 64,000 are maintained as a wildlife reserve to protect:
* 407 birds species, 6 of which threatened;
* 37 medium and large mammal species, 6 of which threatened; (no orangutans in Brazil)
* 40 reptile species.
* 22 amphibian species
*in this wildlife reserve they employ 41 rangers who patrol the area to make sure no hunting or fishing takes place in this area. (Note: you can hunt and fish in most US National Parks)
*they have banned any deforestations and only plant in areas degraded by humans
*they contract with 180 small farmers, with small 10 acre plots of land, to grow and maintain their palm plantations. These families receive fair prices and have 25 year leases on their land
There are other reasons, too numerous to list. We continue to research Agropalma and hope to send a small team to inspect and verify this company in 2014. Should anyone have information contradictory to this statement, or have any questions on our organic palm oil, please contact us at"

Join us!

The El Paso Zoo believes that every single person holds the power to save animals and their habitats. Make a difference one product at a time.

Answers to some common questions

Why should I write a letter?
One person's actions can make a difference. When people become aware of the plight of elephant, orangutans and other animals, they will demand change-just like in the 1980-90s when dolphins were being killed in tuna nets. Be one of the people to help get the word out. Learn more about what is happening to the rainforests in Indonesia by watching online the movie GREEN. DVD copies of this award winning film are available at the Zoo in the Safari Outfitters Gift Shop.

I e-mail a letter, or do I need to mail it?
Whether it is sent by mail or e-mail, the most important thing is to express your opinions and concerns. Letters are more effective than petitions, so please take the time to write a quick e-mail or letter if this is something you care about.

What should I put in my letter?
In a short, direct and polite way, ask companies that use palm oil (or palm kernel oil or palmitate) in the products they produce to:

Switch to another vegetable oil or CERTIFIED sustainable palm oil.
Label their products with that information.

To whom should I write?
Write to companies whose products you normally buy and whose products contain palm oil. See a list of companies using palm oil in their products below. To find the company addresses:

Utilize an Internet search engine like Google.

It is also a good idea to write to legislators and government officials at state and federal levels to inform them of this issue. Visit these political web sites for easy ways to find the right people: - Congressional web site that enables you to enter your ZIP code (preferably with last 4 digits) to obtain a current list of district representatives (both state and federal) - Official web site of the United States Congress - Official web site for the United States Senate

Companies using palm oil in their products
Look at packages in the store where you buy groceries especially cookies and crackers. Also, visit the Rainforest Action Network website for more information at
Making sure that palm oil is grown sustainably will only happen if consumers demand it. If you want to make a difference, call, write, or email companies who use palm oil today!

Some examples of companies to contact:
New York Style Bread
8 Nicholas Court, Dayton, NJ 08810
Eggo waffles
Hot Pockets-Calzone
Englewood, CO, 80112 USA
Kellog's Raisin Bran
Battle Creek, MI 49016
Stouffer's Lean Cuisine
Solon, OH 44139 USA
Boost Energy Drink,(Nestle Health Care)
Minneapolis, MN
55440 1-800-247-7893
Oreo Kraft
Kraft Foods Global Inc.
Chips Ahoy Kraft
Kraft Foods Global Inc.
Cheese Crackers, Albertsons
Albertsons Inc., Boise, Idaho 83726

Let the Zoo know what you did to help by registering on our website.

How Palm Oil Harms Health,
Rainforest & Wildlife


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Our mission is to celebrate the value of animals and natural resources and to create opportunities for people to rediscover their connection to nature.