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The increased use of palm oil has one potentially deadly side-effect – for orangutans.

Palm oil is found in plenty of household goods and groceries, including toothpaste and margarine, but creating palm oil requires the deforestation of a critical habitat for the Borneo orangutan, one of our closest living relatives.

As of February, the species were considered ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which is the highest classification. Biological Sciences applicants should consider how conservation measures must be weight against the production of fast moving consumer goods, and Economics and Geography applicants should consider which stakeholders are involved when making decisions about conservation of monetarily valuable land.

While the prognosis for orangutans looks worrying (as it does for the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhino and Sumatran elephant who are also affected by this deforestation) there are products containing palm oil which are more ethically sourced and environmentally conscious. PPE and HSPS applicants should investigate the trend of ethical consumerism, particularly in developed countries, and how much consumer choices contribute to conservation and protection of wildlife.

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