Growing palm-oil plantations put orangutans in peril

Thank your lucky stars you evolved, because it’s not a great time to be an ape. In Indonesia and Malaysia, forests are being converted lickety-split into lucrative palm-oil plantations, and orangutans that leave their rapidly diminishing habitat to sneak in for a palmy snack are often tortured or killed. As if habitat destruction, poaching, logging, and disease weren’t enough, the biofuel boom could help push apes over the edge: the United Nations has predicted that the 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild could be extinct within the decade. Indonesia and Malaysia produce 83 percent of the world’s palm oil, which is used not only in biofuels, but in toothpaste, soaps, and foods. (Note to consumers: some companies, like Cadbury-Schweppes, Unilever, and the Body Shop, actively seek out sustainable palm oil.) One glimmer of hope: Uganda’s government recently scrapped plans to convert thousands of acres of rainforest into a palm plantation, giving in to intense opposition.