I have just watched an item on Campbell Live about the school holiday programme at Auckland Zoo, which is supposed to start next week. It seems that the Zoo has had to cancel the programme because the sponsors have withdrawn thier support.

The reason for this withdrawl is related to the completion of a workbook which is part of the programme.  One of the questions in the workbook was about the orangutans, specifically, it asked what is the greatest threat to the survival of orangutans. The answer is palm oil.

Palm oil is something most consumers know little about, yet eat and use on a daily basis.  It is used in hundreds of different types of processed food from margarine to noodles to crackers to chocolate.  It is also used in cosmetics and cleaning products.  And it is increasingly being used as a biofuel.  As a result vast swathes of countryside in tropical regions is being cleared to for palm oil plantations- out of sight and out of mind for most Westerners.  Honduras is one of those places.  ALthough more known for fruit growing (the original ‘banana republic’), following Hurricane Mitch much of the fruit growing land has been converted to palm oil plantations.  We travelled through miles and miles of these on our last trip to Honduras.

Malaysia is one of the worlds largest palm oil producers, and the destruction of rain forest for palm oil has been accelerating significantly.  This rainforest is the home of the orangutan, and the destruction of it’s habitat is placing the already endangered primate at even greater risk- hence the question and answer in the Auckland Zoo workbook.

Turns out the sponser for the school holiday project is Tourism Malaysia.  Tourism Malaysia objected to the workbook question and asked Auckland Zoo to remove itd.  Auckland Zoo said no, education about Palm Oil was part of the programme.  So Tourism Malaysia has pulled thier support for the programme.

Of course the supreme irony is that I’m blogging on this now.  Because I’m only blogging about it because of the item which was broadcast on national tv. The issue has obviously gained significantly more exposure now than it would have if they had just left the holiday programme alone.