Palm oil business killing orangutans: French filmmaker

Kolkata: China, Europe and India are fuelling the high demand for palm oil, in turn leading to the rapid destruction of rainforests and the rampant killing of orangutans in Indonesia, says renowned French wildlife filmmaker Patrick Rouxel.

"Poachers and illegal traffickers are on a killing spree of orangutans. They are destroying the rainforests for palm oil plantations which are in high demand in the markets of China and Europe," Rouxel told IANS in an interview here.

"If such deforestation goes on, the rainforests will cease to exist and it will severely affect the ecological balance of the Southeast Asian region, giving rise to greenhouse gases," he said.

Rouxel`s 48-minute documentary film "Green", winner of the WWF Golden Panda award 2010, revolves round the journey of an orphan orangutan named Green which is a victim of deforestation and resource exploitation in Indonesia. The film is an emotional journey of Green`s last days.

He was in Kolkata in connection with a wildlife film festival last month and his film screened here.

Rouxel blames the consumer markets in China, India and Europe for the thriving business of palm oil and the paper and pulp industry in the populous Southeast Asian region.

"The main reason behind this thriving business is the market demands of Europe, China, and India. Through my film, I try to educate the consumers that their demand is leading to the extinction of the rainforests," he said.

"Actually, I myself recovered a baby orangutan from one of the palm oil factories in Indonesia while I was there shooting a film on wildlife. The baby orangutan was in a very bad condition. She died a few days later," said Rouxel, his voice choking.

"The day is not far when the entire rainforests of Indonesia will be destroyed because of palm oil plantations, thereby leading to extinction of species such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers," said Rouxel.

Rouxel has spent considerable time in the rainforests of Congo, Amazon and Indonesia. "Green" is his fifth documentary on the ill effects of deforestation.

"The poachers kill the mother orangutans, snatch way their babies and sell them at high prices. The baby orangutans are kept as pets in very unhygienic conditions," he said.

"If this is the behaviour and the way we treat our ancestors, the orangutans, then I have nothing to say. Palm oil is very cheap and that is why it is in high demand," he said.

Palm oil is a kind of edible oil derived from palm trees and is extensively used in many industries, including the manufacture of bio-diesel.

Rouxel has also faced personal danger in his quest to spread awareness about the issue, but he remains unfazed.

"On several occasions, I have been threatened. May be some day I will get killed. But I will continue my fight to save orangutans and rainforests till I die," he said.


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