With research and contributions from Conservation Interpreter Grayson Ponti
This month is all about tigers at the Dallas Zoo! The Zoo is home to five magnificent Sumatran tigers: Suki, Melati, Manis, Hadiah, and Kuasa. From Melati’s enviably long whiskers to Kuasa’s sheer size and Manis’s characteristically short, stocky legs, each one has their own unique traits and personality.
Pro tip: You’ll only ever see one tiger out in the habitat at a time when you visit the zoo. That’s because they’re solitary by nature and only come together for breeding. While one tiger is out in the public-facing habitat, the other four participate in training sessions or enjoy enrichment in spacious, outdoor yards behind the scenes.
Our five tigers are incredible ambassadors for their critically endangered species that need our help now more than ever. Sumatran tigers are the smallest of the six tiger subspecies and are native to the dense forests of Indonesia. Unfortunately, habitat loss largely due to the palm oil industry has pushed these big cats to the brink of extinction. It’s estimated that fewer than 600 individuals remain in the wild today.
What is palm oil, anyway?
Palm oil is derived from the fruits of the oil palm tree, which is native to the forests of Africa and Southeast Asia. This vegetable oil is found in items we use and consume every single day, from cookies and pizza to lotion, makeup and even cleaning products. In fact, it’s found in more than half of all packaged products available to consumers on supermarket shelves, making palm oil the world’s most popular vegetable oil.
Why is it so popular?
Its popularity is understandable because for producers, palm oil is inexpensive and efficient to grow. For consumers, it has great cooking properties, a natural preservative effect and a smooth, creamy texture that is odorless. It also provides income and jobs for these communities. In Indonesia alone, palm oil directly employs 4.9 million workers with profits over $20 million annually.
How does this affect wildlife?
While palm oil is great for the local economy, producers and consumers, it is devastating to rainforests and the wildlife that call them home. Over 85% of the world’s palm oil is produced in Malaysia and Indonesia, which is also the natural habitat of Sumatran tigers as well as other endangered species. Every hour, 300 football fields worth of rainforest are destroyed to accommodate palm oil plantations. This pushes endangered wildlife out of their natural environment and leaves them with smaller and smaller territories. And it’s not just tigers.
- Almost 80% of the orangutan population has disappeared in the last 20 years.
- The Sumatran elephant population has dwindled to just 3,000 individuals in the wild.
What can we do?
You can make a BIG difference for tigers just by being a responsible consumer. Choose products certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) so you can be sure you’re supporting responsible management of the world’s forests.
RSPO is working to promote the production and consumption of sustainable palm oil by uniting stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry:
- oil palm producers
- consumer goods manufacturers
- environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO)
- social NGOs
RSPO follows the supply chain model of palm oil production and only certifies those that do not harm the ecosystems tigers and other animals call home.
Look for the RSPO logo when shopping.
Download the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Palm Oil Shopping Guide app for an even easier way to identify RSPO certified products.
Taking this extra effort goes a long way toward helping Create a Better World for Animals, which is more important now than ever! Join us in taking a stand to ensure these animals thrive for generations to come.