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  • Palm Oil Crisis: Protect Orangutans by Promoting Sustainable Palm Oil & Product Labeling

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  • Candlelight Vigil for Gorilla Jabari. Killed March 18, 2004 at the Dallas Zoo

    Written and Read by Lee Theisen-Watt. Speech 3/26/04 Dallas City Hall
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  • "With gorilla on run, zoo, police clashed" 

    Article from Dallas News/The Dallas Morning News printed on Wednesday, March 31st, 2004. By TERRI LANGFORD / The Dallas Morning News
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Palm Oil Crisis: Protect Orangutans by Promoting Sustainable Palm Oil & Product Labeling

In the recent wave of trying to avoid trans-fatty acids, the industrial alternative for partially hydrogenated oil is palm oil. Tragically, this industry substitute is far from a healthy option if you’re an orangutan. In fact, it’s deadly.

Full article can be found on the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo website at: http://www.cmzoo.org/palmoil.html

Why is there a Palm Oil Crisis?
The increased demand for palm oil – which is obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree and can be grown only in tropical environments – is fueling destruction of the rainforest habitat of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, pushing those endangered species even closer to extinction. Estimates show that if something isn’t done soon to stop the spread of palm oil plantations into the forests that harbor these orangutans, they will be extinct in ten years. Supply and demand pressures are driving the production of palm oil up to an all time high. Palm oil is now the second most widely produced edible oil. Palm oil is found in cookies, crackers, shampoo, skin care and beauty products, in different varieties of pet food, and many other products. It is also found in a wide array of products sold in natural food stores. And now it is being investigated as a possible fuel alternative.

What is Palm Oil?

  • A form of edible vegetable oil obtained from the fruit of the African oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis).
  • African Oil palms originated in West Africa, but can flourish wherever heat and rainfall are abundant. The majority of all palm oil is grown and produced in Borneo and Sumatra; it is an introduced agricultural crop (not gathered from the rain forests).
  • Second-most widely produced edible oil, behind soybean oil.
  • It is also used in many cosmetics and bath products.
  • Demand for this commodity is rapidly increasing because of recent trans-fat health concerns and bio-fuel development.
  • Download a Palm Oil Education Handout Fact Sheet [.pdf] This file available at original site www.cmzoo.org/palmoil.html

Rainforest and Wildlife in Borneo and Sumatra

  • Indonesia is facing the highest rate of tropical rain forest loss in the world.
  • The deforestation rate is about 4.9 million acres of rainforest each year. That equals 40 times the size of the 2002 Colorado Hayman fire EACH year, or slightly larger than the size of the state of New Jersey.
  • There are millions of hectares of degraded land available that could be used for palm oil plantations. Instead, many companies choose to use high conservation value rainforest land in order to gain the additional timber profits.
  • Borneo is home to 13 primate species, 350 bird species, 150 reptiles and amphibians and 15,000 plant species.
  • Sumatra is home to Sumatran rhinos, clouded leopards, Sumatran tigers, Asian tapirs, Sumatran elephants, and thousands of other species, including the Sumatran Siamang Ape.


  • The wild population of Bornean orangutans is estimated at 45,000-50,000. There are 15 times more deer in the state of Colorado alone than there are orangutans on Earth!
  • There are about 7,300 Sumatran orangutans in the wild; they are on the list of top 25 most endangered primates in the world.
  • Orangutans give birth once every 6 -10 years, the longest interbirth interval of any mammal!
  • Orangutans are the only Asian great ape; they are the largest arboreal mammal on earth.
  • After logging rainforest habitat, palm oil companies often use uncontrolled burning to clear the land. In 1997-98 a devastating fire killed almost 8,000 orangutans in Borneo.
  • Orangutans will be extinct in the wild in the next 10 years if the palm oil industry, deforestation and burning of peat forest do not change.

Palm Oil as a Source of Biofuel

  • One goal of biofuel is to decrease greenhouse gasses and mitigate global warming.
  • HOWEVER…Rainforests remove massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When palm oil is produced through deforestation, the burning peat soil and loss of rainforest actually causes an increase in greenhouse gasses.
  • Biofuel made from soy oil will most likely negatively impact rainforests in Brazil…other types of vegetable oil are more expensive but may offer more sustainable solutions.
  • Palm oil, biofuel and global warming - short video clip Link available at original site www.cmzoo.org/palmoil.html

Local People in Borneo and Sumatra

  • Millions of people in Borneo and Sumatra rely on the palm oil industry for their livelihood. That is one reason we do not support a blanket boycott on all palm oil.
  • The land for new plantations is often forcibly taken from indigenous people who traditionally owned the land, resulting in violent conflicts.
  • Local people can and should be trained in environmentally sustainable agriculture, (including palm oil and other food sources) and other sustainable trades, crafts and professions.
  • Learn about what the United States is contributing through USAID. Link available at original site www.cmzoo.org/palmoil.html

Sources and Reports:
APES would like to applaud Dina Bredahl’s research and presentation on the Palm Oil Crisis. Through the generosity of Ms. Bredahl and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo this report is being shared in the true spirit of conservation to inform and educate. Please view the complete original site at www.cmzoo.org/palmoil.html

During our research at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, regarding the palm oil crisis, we used reputable sources which are listed in the full article at www.cmzoo.org/palmoil.html. We have created a brief, neutral summary of this large and complicated issue. Much of the information available is conflicting, but I believe this summary to be accurate to the best of my ability. - Dina Bredahl, Supervisor of Primates and Conservation, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Voice Your Concerns Where It Counts

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo releases all information in this article into the public domain in an effort to promote the timely dissemination of knowledge surrounding palm oil. This applies worldwide. In some countries this may not be legally possible; if so: Cheyenne Mtn. Zoo grants anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

Candlelight Vigil for Gorilla Jabari. Killed March 18, 2004 at the Dallas Zoo

Written and Read by Lee Theisen-Watt. Speech 3/26/04 Dallas City Hall

In 1978 millions of Americans watched and were mesmerized by a National Geographic special when primatologist and gorilla researcher Dian Fossey’s outstretched hand was touched by the outstretched hand of Digit, a young silverback gorilla.

Then, on February 3rd of that year, Walter Cronkite began the CBS evening news with a report that Digit had been killed by poachers in Rwanda.

Both Digit and Jabari’s lives were lost at man’s hands, and gorillas as well as countless species are loosing their battle to survive in our ever consuming world.

I spent most of today reviewing news reels, press releases, newspaper articles, and public opinions posted on the internet. All are strong opinions, some conflicting. But there are three points on which we all agree.

  1. A tragedy had occurred.
  2. Innocent people had been injured and harmed a few physically and many others emotionally.
  3. An animal had entered a situation beyond its ability to cope, behaved predictably as any wild animal may, and had been killed.

Beyond this, there are many more questions than answers, many of which will always remain unanswered.

After the shock wears off, we want to know how this happened. Why, and who is responsible for the tragic outcome?

Who is at fault?

Budget cuts by the City of Dallas?
The Dallas Zoo?
The Dallas Police?
Taunting kids?
A flawed enclosure?
Human Error?

The final answer comes not under the dissection of events, but rather under the developed understanding of man’s role and responsibility towards nature.

Unquestionably, man has conquered and reigns supreme over this world. With that dominion does not the privilege to destroy and take at will, but rather the responsibility to protect and defend the exquisite diversity and beauty of our world.

The protection and care of captive animals is without negotiation. Whether in a home, a yard, pasture, cage, or enclosure, every animal under our personal care has critical needs which must be met by their caretakers. They have been placed, by us, into the complete dependence of our intelligence and compassion.

Jabari was completely dependent upon the zoo and staff for his care and safety. Yes, he was well cared for and even loved. But his safety as well as every other animal’s safety was not insured-as evidenced by last Thursday. For me and everyone I’ve spoken to , the frustration, anger and sadness is found in the complete breakdown of the zoo’s ‘Model Crises Management Plan’. Something went wrong-and to defend the result is wrong.

Jabari was a magnificent being, strong and handsome, becoming a proud silverback as he ascended into adulthood. Jabari like all apes, possessed tremendous intelligence and emotion.

For reasons still unknown, Jabari escaped from the safety of his enclosure. His excitement and behavior predictable. His unfortunate encounters with innocent zoo patrons led to terror and injury.

However, make no mistake, the incredible strength of a gorilla is unimaginable. Clearly, his intent was not to seriously injure or kill--Jabari was in a state of tremendous stress and confusion, but even in that state, this intelligent and sensitive being spared not only the three people he physically touched, but also other people within his range.

The fact that he stayed near his enclosure indicates a desire to return to the safety of the only environment he has know for the past eight years.

Ninety-nine percent.

Ninety-nine percent is not simply a convenient number, but a number provided by field biologists studying the behavior of gorilla.

Ninety-nine percent of gorilla charges are bluffs--stopping short. The objective is to intimidate enemies and keep them at a distance. Civil police officers, those who arrived at the zoo and were permitted to enter the grounds are not responsible for this knowledge nor are they expected to possess any expertise of animals-this the role of the zoos.

That is why--as the zoo indicated in their uncirculated training video, that: Once the patrons of the zoo are safe and protected--their team of trained experts would handle the re-capture of the escaped animal.

Something disintegrated between the safety of the patrons and the safe re-capture of the animal.

Preparation. Skill. Opportunity and Luck. All play critical roles in the successful capture of a wild animal.

None of these played a role in Jabari’s fate. Jabari was not given a chance.

Unfortunately no one can change this tragic past, it is however, our shared responsibility to guarantee that this negligent sequence of events never again will happen.

Written and Read by Lee Theisen-Watt
Speech 3/26/04 Dallas City Hall
Incident 3/18/04

"With gorilla on run, zoo, police clashed" 

Article from Dallas News/The Dallas Morning News printed on Wednesday, March 31st, 2004. By TERRI LANGFORD / The Dallas Morning News

Despite more than five years of emergency drills together, the Dallas Zoo staff and Dallas police struggled with one another the day Jabari the gorilla escaped, according to zoo records obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

Statements written by zoo employees immediately after the March 18 incident paint a picture of chaos instead of a well-trained team working together to find and subdue the 350-pound western lowland gorilla and rescue the three people injured by the primate. The gorilla was eventually shot to death by police.

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