Zoo refutes allegations

1 August 2011

Melbourne Zoo refutes allegations from Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive Tan Sri Datuk concerning the welfare of the orang-utans in the Zoo's Orang-utan Sanctuary.

Conservation Director Rachel Lowry says that ‘this is an award-winning, state-of-the-art exhibit, built to provide this tree-living species with great climbing structures to encourage their natural behaviours. 

‘Like all Melbourne Zoo exhibits, the orang-utan exhibit is designed so the animals have their choice of sitting in shade or sun, in the open or under shelter.

‘There is underfloor heating outdoors, their day room exhibit area is kept at 20 degrees, and their night dens are also heated.'

She explains that ‘as with all tropical species displayed at Melbourne Zoo, we meet their need for warmth.  Their use of sheets or other coverings is behavioural, not a response to the cold.  They enjoy lying under sheets or other fabrics, and they even do it in our summer weather.'

Ms. Lowry says that ‘on Friday we celebrated the birthday of the young male, Menyaru, who was born here eight years ago as part of an international endangered species breeding program.

‘We wish that all of his wild cousins could be as safe as Menyaru is, but we know that the extensive expansion of oil palm plantations is depriving orang-utans and other wildlife of their rainforest homes.'

 Melbourne Zoo's ‘Don't Palm us Off' campaign aims to change Australia labelling legislation so that manufacturers of consumer products be required to list palm oil when it is an ingredient in their product.  It can now be legally listed as ‘vegetable oil'.

Ms. Lowry explains ‘We believe that consumers should be able to know all the ingredients in products they purchase, palm oil included.  Our campaign is about consumer choice. 

‘Mandatory labelling will provide that choice. Consumers may choose to buy ingredients with palm oil, or not, and if not we hope this would encourage manufacturers to make the switch to certified sustainable palm oil, which is produced without damaging wildlife habitats.

‘We hope that Malaysian visitors to Melbourne will come out to the Zoo to see for themselves that the orang-utans here are well cared for, healthy, and active.'