Let me start this post in a bit different way. Which products contain a palm oil? You are not sure? For a long time I didn’t pay attention to it, but I know it already. You will find it in ice cream, cookies, chips, chocolate bars, margarines, instant soups, lipstick, toothpasts, soap, detergents…

Orang Utan means Man of the forest in Malay

So, what is the source of that oil? It comes from a special kind of palm trees, called Elaeis guineensis¹ that come from Madagascar and Africa. The tree reaches up to ten meters hight and has yellow or reddish drupe size of a plum, connected fruits form great bunches. The seeds contain up to seventy percent fat, and about twenty-six percent of the protein. Palm trees are grown mainly in West and Central Africa – including their native Congo – as well as in Colombia, Ecuador, Malaysia and Indonesia. The latter two countries are major producers and generate 80% of world production. How is this possible? The support of the World Bank and private banks as well as governments allowed companies to take loans, employ cheap labors and grubbing and burning rainforest. Since the seventies of the last century oil palm plantation area in Indonesia have risen thirty, and in Malaysia twelve times respectively.

Indonesia and Malysia are major producers and generate 80% of world production. Since the seventies of the last century oil palm plantation area in Indonesia have risen thirty, and in Malaysia twelve times respectively.



Sepilok Orangutan


Palm Oil

And why am I writing about it? Since, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme maintaining the current pace of palm oil production will result in 98 percent of Sumatra and Borneo forests being destroyed by 2022. As a result of deforestation to make room for plantations orangutans are losing not only a place to live. Deprived of home and natural food in desperation they eat young palm trees by what are regarded as pests and killed. They die also in fires or from hunger. Often young and unaccompanied are sentenced to death. According to recent estimates, the population of wild orangutans in Borneo is 45 to 69 thousands and in Sumatra only 7300 individuals of this species. Both are classified as threatened with total instinction². Of course, this problem does not touch only the orang-utans, Javan rhinos and Sumatran tigers. Rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo are home to two-thirds of the land species of plants and animals. This is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, extremely important for our planet and us.

Sumatra and Borneo

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme maintaining the current pace of palm oil production will result in 98 percent of Sumatra and Borneo forests being destroyed by 2022.

I do not claim that we should completly stop Guinea oil palm plantations, but we must stop the formation of another companies operating in violation of the law and provide the mechanisms to diversify the oil sources. Unfortunately, it is often impossible to undertake a dialogue with companies like Sinar Mas, which operate outside the law and on the protected lands³, at first there was also no effect of conversation with corporations buying oil from such oil producers. As it happens in life only loud and strong campaign forced Nestlé to take some steps. In 2010 the company decided to exclude such suppliers and stop the use of oil from plantations created by the destruction of rainforests.

Famous KitKat anticomercial:

Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre

And this is how we come to Sepilok – one of the institutions that are helping Orangutans, founded in 1964. It covers 43 square kilometers of protected land on the edge of the Sepilok Forest Reserve Kabila. About 60 – 80 wild Orangutans lives there. The center hosts very young, orphaned Orangutans that without care would not have a chance of survival in the jungle. In Sepilok they get continuous care, and are taught to develope the skills in moving in the trees and to be able to independently spend their adult lives in the rainforest. For animals already living in the wild meals are organized twice a day. This is the best time for observation, otherwsie they are not so happy to come and watch the tourists, a chance to see them the other time then feeding is very little. Additionally this year a new covered tribune was open, where you can observe young Orangutans playing on the playground. The glass wall allows us see Orangutans but not the other way round so their development is not adversely affected (unfortunately the window has a yellowish tint, and is scratched so the pictures come out awful). We support resort by paying for a ticket, but you can also register to volunteer, it is unfortunately quite a big expense, about 3,000 pounds for 8 weeks.

Before entering you can leave your stuff in a locker and get the key. For now we enter only with cameras, no food and no drinks. At the gate we are asked for disinfection of footwear and hands.

Sepilok through the glass

Sepilok przez szybę


Sepilok przez szybę



(for non-Malysian):

Adults: RM30

Kids: RM15

It is a day ticket and allows to see morning ant afernoon feeding.

Cameras: RM10


Opening hours

Main gate: 8:00 to 17:00

Center: Saturday – Thursday – 9.00 to 12.00 and 14.00 to 16.00. Friday 9.00 to 11.00 and 14.00 to 16.00.

Orangutans feeding time: 10.00 and 15.00, it is good to come earlier to have a good observation spot.


The other residents of Sepilok and surroundings



What can we do?

I do not think that it is possible to eliminate palm oil from all products, but I think it is worth paying attention to the source of it our favorite bars, lipsticks, soaps or other sandwich spreads. We often tend to forget that each of our smallest choice can have a great impact on the world. Many times I heard, what can I do, others will buy it anyway and nothing is gonna change. It gonna change, because there is more people doing right small choices, demand generates supply, showing that you do not agree to something and you will not pay for it gives a clear signal for change. That you care. That you mind the future of our planet.

Companies that are changing to sustainable palm oil only: Unilever, Nestlé, Marks & Spencers, Body Shop, Kellogg’s, Starbucks, Mars, Inc., Hershey’s, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser. Companies using only uncertified palm oil: Auchan, Lidl, L’Occitane.

Sustainable palm oil has only 10% of share in worldwide production.

Kupujmy produkty z certyfikatem “The Rainforest Alliance certificate”

The Rainforest Alliance certificate

Sustainable production of palm oil according to WWF:



Under what names you can recognize the palm oil:


    • Palmitate or Palmate
    • Elaeis gunieensis
    • Hydrated Palm Gylcerides Hexadecanoic
    • Palmitic Acid

and probably:

  • vegetable oil – highly probable if product contains saturated fat
  • containing words stearate, stearyl
  • and cetyl, cetearyl
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate
  • (SDS or NaDS) Sodium
  • Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate Steareth -2
  • Steareth -20 Emulgator 422, 430-36, 465-67, 470-8, 481-483



¹ macaw-fat, African oil palm

² according to United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)

³ Flora and Fauna International Organization (FFI) performed evaluation of High Conservation Value (HCV) at the plantation owned by Sinar Mas (PT Kirtika Prima Cipta) in year 2009.


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