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Last Updated: Friday, 23 September 2005, 01:44 GMT 02:44 UK
Shoppers 'threat to orangutans'
Orangutan
Campaigners fear orangutans could become extinct
Demand for crisps, bread, lipstick and soap could drive orangutans to extinction, research suggests.

The UK alone imports nearly a million tonnes of palm oil a year for use in such products, but campaigners say plantations for it destroy rainforests.

Friends of the Earth and international ape conservation groups warn in a report that 90% of the animals' habitat in South East Asia has been wiped out.

A senior Malaysian politician dismissed the findings as "not correct".

Legal duty

The groups claim British supermarkets do not know where their palm oil is produced.

It is we who will have to explain to our children that the orangutan became extinct because of corporate greed
Ian Redmond
Ape Alliance

They are calling on the government to give company directors a legal duty to minimise their environmental impacts.

Friends of the Earth palm oil campaigner Ed Matthew accused the government of "failing to clean up its own backyard".

He said: "Over 100 UK companies and every single British supermarket is helping fuel the obliteration of orangutan habitat."

'Corporate greed'

The report, the Oil for Ape Scandal, said palm oil plantations have now become the primary cause of the orangutans' decline in Malaysia and Indonesia, which could result in the apes becoming extinct within 12 years.

Some experts estimated 5,000 orangutans perished as a result every year.

The research claimed at least 84% of UK companies failed to take effective action to ensure they do not buy palm oil from destructive sources.

Ian Redmond, chairman of the Ape Alliance, said if the government failed to act, "it is we who will have to explain to our children that the orangutan became extinct because of corporate greed and a lack of political will".

Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, the chief minister of Sarawak, Malaysia's largest state, challenged the report's findings, calling it "not correct, and misleading".

Mr Mahmud said palm oil plantations were mainly grown on land that had already been cultivated or in "secondary jungle".

He added that environmental impact studies were carried out before any oil palm trees were planted.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the forests that are being destroyed



SEE ALSO:
Declaration signed on great apes
12 Sep 05 |  Science/Nature
Nations focus on great ape crisis
05 Sep 05 |  Science/Nature
Apes 'extinct in a generation'
01 Sep 05 |  Science/Nature


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