Have you ever thought to yourself, “am I doing enough? am I contributing enough of my time, energy and money to help a cause?” I have. And I’m sure you can guess my response.
Image: The Rainforest Discover Centre – Borneo, Malaysia 2018
Living in the western world, we are surrounded by consumerism and commercial gain. We have become blind to the impact of our actions, and unappreciative of the materials we have at our finger tips. Summer is approaching (we hope) which means BBQ season is upon us! I’m sure many of us will be darting out to buy a six pack of beers, some dips and crisps, some meat (usually found in polystyrene trays!) and some veg (usually found in plastic containers – which is pointless yes?) in preparation for a day of flipping and munching.
The truth is, we don’t think twice about buying these products; most of which not only use excessive plastic for their packaging but also contain unsustainable palm oil which is destroying the homes of our endangered species around the world. We have become too used to a certain way of life and now it’s time for us all to wake up and make a conscious effort to change our habits.
Image: The Rainforest Discovery Centre 2018
I recently paid a visit to nature’s very own living room; Borneo, Malaysia. It is a country full of enchantment and beauty; abundant with rainforests that date back more than 100 million years, and home to thousands of endemic species. Your eyes are peeled, and your ears are pricked as soon as you sight the first tree! On an overnight stay at the Kinabatangan River, we saw birds, monkeys and (rather intimidating and huge!) crocodiles. We also zipped up our cagoules, threw on some leech socks and took part in a night trek through the jungle (overheating in doing so!). Exhilarating would be an understatement.
Borneo flourishes with raw, natural beauty yet, as I continued to explore, I felt a deep feeling of sadness and shame begin to take it’s toll. We as humans, are destroying that.
The sad truth is, it is our human activity and growing demand for palm oil which has led Borneo to become the leading contributor to the production of palm oil in the world. Vast palm oil plantations are rapidly encroaching on the last primary rain forests which are destroying the habitats of endangered animals through deforestation. The Bornean Orangutan population has dropped by more than 50% since 1950 and other animals such as; Sun Bears, Sumatran tigers, Pygmy elephants and Sumatran rhinos, are also being forced out of their homes and into extinction.
Image: Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC)
In a desperate attempt to save these species from extinction, a number of charities and wildlife reserves are doing what they can to protect endangered species. Some of these include:
- The Rain Forest Discovery Centre
- Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
- Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)
- Turtle Island Park
I’d highly recommend visiting the above conservation centres. On Turtle Island we witnessed a turtle giving birth; eggs hatching; and helped release baby turtles into the ocean (a proud, yet fearful, parent moment!). Turtle Island Park are protecting turtles from predators and conserving them until there are ready to face survival at sea.
Image: Kinabatangan River 2018
I feel privileged to have experienced and explored such a rare gem. It completely changes your perspective and forces you to open your eyes to the impact we as humans are having on the world.
BUT, what can we do to make a difference and help to protect and save these species from extinction?
Check before you buy: We need to stop buying products with palm oil until we can guarantee that the palm oil comes from legal and sustainable resources. Below, are just some of the items most of us have on our shopping lists which contain palm oil:
- Vegan cheese
- Ice cream
- Instant noodles
NOTE: Palm oil may also appear as; Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate and Palmitate on food labels.
RECYCLE! Reduce your carbon footprint.
- Cut down on packaging (try and buy loose veg instead?)
- Try not to buy products in coloured plastic – pick clear or white plastic, which is easier to recycle.
Join a cause:
- Raise awareness – why not team up with others to plan an event for charity.
- Support organizations – Health In Harmony that are working to protect orangutans and their habitats and at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) you can adopt an orangutan.
If we can decide overnight to change our fitness habits by joining a local gym (in prep for summer), surely, we can start buying loose veg, recycling our plastics and checking our food labels! Come on Westerners, let’s step up our green game!
If you’d like to make a difference, visit and join the below organisations who are doing what they can to help …
WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund)