Singapore Zoo display on palm oil and orangutans raises ire of Teresa Kok

Singapore Zoo has a display showing oil palm estates having displaced orangutans. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: Singapore Zoo has been criticised for putting up a display that sheds a negative light on palm oil and its effects on orangutans, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reported.

Delivering her keynote address at the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on Thursday morning, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok called for countries in Southeast Asia to instead present a united front in supporting the palm oil industry.

Kok noted that the zoo’s displays on the orangutan had damaged the image of palm oil-producing countries in the region “despite progressive efforts towards sustainability and wildlife conservation”, CNA reported.

She said the palm oil industry has contributed funds to wildlife conservation in Sabah to protect the orangutan, Borneo pygmy elephant and the sun bear.

“In this case, Singapore Zoo acted possibly in haste and was reflecting emotions expressed by some ill-informed visitors,” she added.

Teresa Kok.

Kok called on Asean countries to show solidarity and “be supportive of one another”, especially in presenting facts on palm oil, which supports the livelihood of thousands of people.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which is in charge of operating Singapore Zoo, said it advocates sustainably produced palm oil.

The display at the zoo says conversion of forests to palm oil plantations is a serious threat to rainforest animals, such as the endangered Borneo orangutan species.

“Palm oil is used in many products such as bread, cookies, toothpaste etc. Demand for palm oil derived biofuel is also soaring and rainforest animals are losing their habitats faster than ever.”

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had previously stated that the European Union’s increasingly hostile attitude towards palm oil was an attempt to protect Europe’s own produce, like rapeseed oil.