Top brands urged to save the Red Ape by ditching palm oil from forest destruction

Publication date: 11th May 2018

Young orangutan in a reintroduction project in Kalimantan, Borneo


Greenpeace is urging major consumer brands to help save the world’s last living orangutans by refusing to buy palm oil from companies that destroy rainforests.

The appeal comes as the animals’ fight to survive was laid bare in a shocking BBC2 documentary, Red Ape: Saving the Orangutan, aired last night.

Harrowing scenes from the documentary showed rescue workers climbing through ruined forests to help stranded mothers and their babies, stretchering orangutans to safety and carrying out surgery on critically injured individuals. One moving sequence showed an orangutan appearing to confront a digger before dropping from the horizontal trunk of a felled tree.

Habitat loss is the biggest cause of orangutan deaths and, since 1990, more than 24 million hectares of Indonesia’s rainforest have been destroyed (an area the size of the UK) [1], while the country’s palm oil production has increased more than fourteen-fold [2]. More than 100,000 orangutans have been lost in the last 16 years alone.[3]

In 2010, companies including Nestle, Pepsico, Unilever and Mars – members of the powerful Consumer Goods Forum and the biggest buyers of palm oil in the world – promised that by 2020 they would have stopped buying palm oil from any company that destroyed rainforests. [4]

Greenpeace UK Executive Director John Sauven, who appeared in Red Ape said:

“It’s heart-wrenching to see the horror these animals are being subjected to, from poaching to the loss of their rainforest home. Leading brands have repeatedly promised to end their role in deforestation for palm oil but Red Ape has exposed their failure to make meaningful progress in their commitments.

“Only last month, Greenpeace presented Nestle, Unilever, Pepsico and Mars with evidence that their suppliers were involved in large-scale deforestation in Papua. Given the climate and biodiversity crisis this sort of negligence is inexcusable.”

All three species of orangutan – Bornean, Sumatran and the Tanpanuli, a species discovered only last year – are now on the critically endangered list. And other species are suffering too. More than 69% of Sumatran elephant habitat has been destroyed within one generation and there are fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild. Fires rage in the dry season, often deliberately started by companies clearing the land, which endanger people, wildlife and the climate.


Images available here:


[1] Figures cover natural forest loss, taken from:

1990-2012: FREL Annex 5.1, p93, gross deforestation 21,339,301ha




[3] ‘100,000 orangutans’ killed in 16 years:


[4] Zero deforestation and climate commitments: