Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hunger for vegetable oil means trouble for Africa's great apes

Date:
July 10, 2014
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
The vegetable oil found in your popcorn or soap might not be ape friendly, and the situation appears likely to get even worse, according to an analysis. The growing demand for vegetable oil has already led to the conversion of Southeast Asian forest into oil palm plantations, bringing trouble for orangutans in particular. If guidelines are not put in place very soon, researchers say the spread of those large-scale industrial plantations from Asia into Africa will be bad news for great apes there as well.

Chimps feed on oil palm fruit.
Credit: Henry Camara-Bossou

The vegetable oil found in your popcorn or soap might not be ape friendly, and the situation appears likely to get even worse, according to an analysis in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 10.

The growing demand for vegetable oil has already led to the conversion of Southeast Asian forest into oil palm plantations, bringing trouble for orangutans in particular. If guidelines are not put in place very soon, researchers say the spread of those large-scale industrial plantations from Asia into Africa will be bad news for great apes there as well.

"The first step is to get this issue on the forefront of public awareness and on the agenda of companies active in Africa and governments, both in and outside of Africa," says Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University. "Public awareness is key, as consumers have influence through their purchasing behavior."

Oil palm concessions that have already been given to companies for production in Africa show almost 60% overlap with the distribution of great ape species, the new analysis finds. Of the area suitable for growing oil palm in Africa, there is a 42% overlap with great ape habitat.

Palm oil is found in a large number of products, from popcorn to candy to soap to cosmetics, making growth of the tropical trees a very lucrative industry. But, at least for Wich, the downsides associated with oil palm demand have been particularly apparent.

"Working in Indonesia during the past two decades has given me first-hand experience of the extremely rapid oil palm development, for which large areas of forest have been cleared," he says. "Now that companies are looking to Africa, we wanted to determine how large the potential threat to African ape species is."

The new analysis shows that the oil palm industry presents a significant threat to apes all across Africa. The problem could be particularly acute in some countries, including Gabon, Congo, and The Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the only home to the peaceful chimpanzee relatives known as bonobos. In each of those nations, approximately 80% of the area suitable for oil palm growth overlaps with ape habitat.

"There is an urgent need to develop guidelines for the expansion of oil palm in Africa to minimize the negative effects on apes and other wildlife," Wich and colleagues write. "There is also a need for research to support land use decisions to reconcile economic development, great ape conservation, and the avoidance of carbon emissions."

For people looking to do something about the palm oil problem themselves, now is the time to start, the researchers say.

"The general public should try to push the companies they buy goods from to use sustainable oil palm," Wich says, noting that some products now carry a GreenPalm logo. "If consumers do buy a product with palm oil in it and no label, they should email, call, or otherwise contact the company to ask them to start using sustainable palm oil and tell them they will not continue to buy their product until it is labeled to indicate this."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Serge A. Wich, John Garcia-Ulloa, Hjalmar S. Kühl, Tatanya Humle, Janice S.H. Lee, Lian Pin Koh. Will Oil Palm’s Homecoming Spell Doom for Africa’s Great Apes? Current Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.05.077

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Hunger for vegetable oil means trouble for Africa's great apes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140710130856.htm>.
Cell Press. (2014, July 10). Hunger for vegetable oil means trouble for Africa's great apes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140710130856.htm
Cell Press. "Hunger for vegetable oil means trouble for Africa's great apes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140710130856.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jane Goodall Warns Great Apes Face Extinction

Jane Goodall Warns Great Apes Face Extinction

AFP (July 29, 2014) — The world's great apes face extinction within decades, renowned chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall warned Tuesday in a call to arms to ensure man's closest relatives are not wiped out. Duration: 00:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rat Infestation at Paris' Tuileries Garden

Rat Infestation at Paris' Tuileries Garden

AFP (July 29, 2014) — An infestation of rats is causing concern among tourists at Paris' most famous park -- the Tuileries garden next to the Louvre Museum. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins