A WILDLIFE vet is campaigning to ban unsustainable palm oil production after trying to save the life of an orangutan which had been shot 130 times.
Paul Ramos, an American who has settled in Stratford, travelled to Borneo to witness first hand the impact of palm oil plantations on wildlife including the island’s critically endangered orangutans.
The dad-of-two, who is also an aspiring film-maker, was helping the Centre of Orangutan Protection on the south-east Asian island, when they were called to rescue the male orangutan.
Paul told the Observer: “He was hanging from the tree branch for three days and had been rescued by rangers. We knew something wasn’t right as he seemed very dazed and it turned out he was blind. Most of the 130 shots were to his head and face. I was in the moment so I just got on with things.
“The emotions came flooding after that. We share 97 per cent of our DNA with them so they are not unlike us at all, as a human you could easily put yourself in his position and imagine how he suffered for three days.”
The rapid spread of palm oil plantations in Borneo has brought wildlife into conflict with humans. It is believed villagers were responsible for the savage attack on the orangutan.
“The animals move out searching for new places they can survive,” added Paul. “They come into contact with people who see them as a pest and a threat so use force and violence against them.
“The orangutans are even having to build their nests in the thin strip of trees that line the roads because there is no more forest.”
It is thought around half of packaged supermarket goods from shampoo and lipstick to pizza and chocolate contain palm oil.
Paul, who is now back home in Stratford, said lobbying governments and food companies to use sustainable palm oil was one thing people could do to effect change.
He added: “It’s something I have been thinking about and struggling with in terms of lifestyle changes. Saying no to palm oil is not the answer. It’s in everything and not going away. What we can do is really insist to our governments that palm oil is made sustainability and that forest is not destroyed to make the oil.
“There are some sustainable plantations out there but there is a lot of corruption in the industry that policies to follow it to the source could be better. We need to be pushing back. This is not acceptable.”
Follow Project Pongo on Facebook for upcoming film projects by Paul and the Borneo and Orangutan Survival Foundation.