I was lucky enough to spend the past week in Borneo. We met the chap’s parents at Kuala Lumpur airport and the four of us spent a joyous time in Malaysian Borneo. The wildlife was my favourite part. We got to see so many different species of monkey, the famous orang utan as well as macaks and proboscis monkeys. I loved birdwatching too, as we saw cranes, hornbills and tiny little tropical sun birds. Add to that the bugs, beetles, moths, crocs and flying squirrels, it was a feast for the eyes.
We had an interesting car journey with a friendly, clever Malay man called Jason. For a large part of the drive, Jason was teaching us all about palm oil and the devastating effects it has had on the country. Pictures couldn’t do justice to the scale of which the palm oil industry has obliterated the ancient rainforest to put their crop in its place. It’s as far as the eye can see and has swamped large parts of the country. They even plant creepers to stop the natural forest reclaiming its place. The palm trees are all GMO. They are sprayed with harmful chemicals. They do not employ local workers, but instead use cheap immigrants to save money. They force the animals into a tiny territory then charge the public extortionate amounts to go and see them. They put up electric fences to keep the wildlife out.
And why? Why is palm oil so important? It’s in everything, literally everything. Food, medication, oil, toothpaste, cosmetics, chocolate, your house, my house, their house is full of palm oil products. And for the record, there is no such thing as “sustainable” palm oil. It just means that the companies promise to plant more of their crop, not actually undo any of the damage they’ve already done to the rainforest and its inhabitants. Can anything be done to hold back the tide? Well, our expenditure on Borneo went towards conservation efforts, and I plan on researching how to cut down on palm oil consumption. I suppose the most productive action would be to assist regrow schemes wherever possible.
Borneo reminded me how much of an animal lover I am and the passion I have for helping animals in any way I can. It may be the start of a new career path, we’ll see. I have lost my heart to the orang utans in Borneo, and I don’t think it’s too difficult to see why.