Palm Oil

Palm oil has changed the world like few other plant products in the history of humankind.

Palm oil has changed the world like few other plant products in the history of humankind.

That change has impacted negatively great apes more than almost any group of creatures. One has to look to wheat, rice and potatoes to find domesticated plants that can rival the growing global influence of oil palm and its resulting palm oil products.

Palm oil is the by-product of crushing and processing the fresh fruit nuts produced by the oil palm tree. Unfortunately, palm oil is responsible for large-scale forest conversion in the tropics and extensive carbon emissions, contributing to global warming.

African Origins

Oil palm — (Elaeis guineensis) is a species of palm commonly called African oil palm or macaw-fat. It is the principal source of palm oil. It is native to west and southwest Africa, specifically the area between Angola and the Gambia; the species name guineensis refers to the name for the area, Guinea, and not the modern country which now bears that name. The species is also now naturalised in Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Sumatra, Central America, the West Indies and several islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The closely related American oil palm (Elaeis oleifera) and a more distantly related palm, Attalea maripa, are also used to produce palm oil.

Human use of oil palms may date as far back as 5,000 years in West Africa; in the late 1800s, archaeologists discovered palm oil in a tomb at Abydos dating back to 3,000 BCE. It is thought that Arab traders brought the oil palm to Egypt.

Sustainable Palm Oil vs Sustainable Rainforests

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), formed in 2004, is the major certification body for palm oil. The RSPO today has about 1000 members, including oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, and NGOs working on environmental, social, and development issues. To date the world has lumped its collective hopes of surviving the palm oil rush on RSPO. The question: is it sustainable palm oil we need or sustainable rainforests?

Though the RSPO provides criteria for “certified sustainable palm oil” (CSPO) and offers that certification, their standards do not yet represent the best science regarding forest conservation and carbon emissions. Certified sustainable palm oil is not guaranteed to be deforestation-free, nor is the destruction of peatlands banned. See Palm Oil Primer Facts by clicking LEARN MORE button right.


Explosive oil palm growth closing in on great apes

Why I work in Cameroon. Cameroon is a reflection of what faces great apes across Central and Western Africa, particularly as the promise of palm oil — ubiquitous in food, cosmetics, and cleaning products around the world — is felt across the region.

Palm oil originates from Africa and has long been a staple crop for many smallholders. Its profitability means it could play a critical role in alleviating poverty. But with the global appetite for palm oil ever-increasing, space running out in Asia for more plantations, and African markets hungry for international investment, the spectre of the ecological devastation wrought in Asia in pursuit of palm oil looms large for this “new frontier” of industrial oil palm production. Or as is commonly said, “Palm oil is coming home.”

“Current great ape distribution in Africa substantially overlaps with current oil palm concessions (by 58.7 percent) and areas suitable for oil palm production (by 42.3 percent),” reported a 2014 study led by Serge Wich, a professor in primate biology at Liverpool John Moores University, UK. “More importantly, 39.9 percent of the distribution of great ape species on unprotected lands overlaps with suitable oil palm areas.”

  • slash and burn deforestation great apes
  • slash and burn palm oil deforestation
  • slash and burn palm oil deforestation, Cameroon
  • palm oil fruit Cameroon
  • chimpanzee palm oil great apes


Read the Facts


Averting a Great Ape Catastrophe in Cameroon
Read The Article


The Guardian online resource
Connect to the page
orangutan peatland fire Borneo 

BORNEO — Surviving on a burnt landscape

In mid-November 2015 I journeyed over an hour east of Ketapang, West Kalimantan with IAR orang-utan rescue staff to search for...
Read More
Learn More
toxic fire haze Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia 

BORNEO — The Price of Palm Oil

I traveled to Borneo intentionally during the height of the 2015 fire season, which lasted over two-months between September and...
Read More
Learn More
palm oil fruit Cameroon 

Cameroon — Palm Oil in the beginning

Before Cameroon I only knew palm oil from the gigantic corporate plantation perspective, in Cameroon I discovered palm oil’s roots....
Read More
Learn More

You are donating to : GLOBIO

How much would you like to donate?
$20 $50 $100
Would you like to make regular donations? I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Additional Note