Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Stop killing Orangutans. Yes, I'm talking to you.

Ok, so today I move from moaning about parochial problems to something a bit more international.

5 years ago my wife and I went on holiday to Borneo. We had taken a train to my mother's one weekend and someone had left the colour supplement from the Mail or some such paper on the train. Flicking through it we came across an advert for a Kuoni holiday to Borneo. We hadn't had a holiday that year so when we got home I looked into it. Included in the holiday was the flights, 10 nights at a 4 star hotel and 3 excursions and the total price was less than the cheapest return flights I could find on the internet, so we thought we'd go for it.

Now I have to admit that even up to a week before we went away I thought that Borneo was that big island off the East coast of Africa. It turns out that island is Madagascar and Borneo is the even bigger island half way to Australia. I had wondered why the flight was going to take quite so long.

Anyway, the holiday was very nice, thankyou. One of the trips was to Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation center on the East coast of Malaysian Borneo. We were staying on the West coast at Kota Kinabalu so flights were laid on. Flying across the country was amazing. Looking out of the window at miles and miles of rainforest. Except that it wasn't. Closer inspection showed the trees to be regimented lines of palm oil trees.

Seeing the Orangutans at Sepilok is one of those experiences that you have to do for yourself. I can't really describe the sense of wonder at being confronted by these large, intelligent, gentle animals in the rainforest.

But the reason they are in the rehabilitation center is the palm oil plantations. Every minute an area the size of 3 football pitches is cut down, ostensibly to create palm oil plantations. The reality is slightly more complicated - palm oil can just as easily be grown on already degraded land, of which there is plenty available. The fact is that the palm oil producers can make a fast profit by clearing an area and then selling the logs without having to grow a single palm. After the logging comes the burning.

Palm oil is used in many everyday products including ice cream, chocolate, biscuits, crisps, soap, toothpaste and cosmetics. In the UK it is often labelled as simply vegetable oil. A recent survey by Friends of the Earth revealed that most UK companies don't know where their palm oil originates. This is where you can help. If you visit www.safepalmoil.org you will find pre-printed letters on their "How to Help" page that you can send to the main UK supermarkets, asking them to ensure that their palm oil supplies and those of the manufacturers they stock are sourced from non-destructive, sustainable sources.

You might wonder why I brought this up today. Well, my wife is a member of the freecycle London email list and recently there was a request for medical books from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK for help with medical books and all things medical. As I work in a hospital, and as we recently moved from our old building to our nice new shiny building, I was pretty sure we had left some of our old books behind. So I picked up a few bags of BNF's and other assorted medical books and today handed them over to Michelle Desilets who is a director of BOS.

You can see the work of BOS on BBC2 tonight at 7:30 on their program Apes in Danger.

In local news - Londonist has reported on the Thin Red Line, including a handy map and a picture. One of their commenters suggests it might be a piece of work by Banksy, as he did a white line on the riverside. I hope so as I am a fan of Banksy's works.


Anonymous cialis said...

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10:58 AM  

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