22 July 2014

Jane and the crazy orangutan

Why would an 80 year old travel for 300 days a year?

Because she's Jane Goodall, of course, famous chimpanzee researcher and now environmental activist. I sat on the ticket-purchasing website when I heard of her June talk in Auckland and managed to successfully hit 'buy now', unlike most of the people after me.

This photo is from Jane Goodall's website, where
you can read more about her work.

What a woman! She spoke for over an hour, with no notes, but enormous wisdom and intelligence. We were enthralled, much like the other audiences she speaks to on her travels, I am sure.

We laughed when we heard she wanted to be like Dr Doolittle as a child, and that the only thing wrong with Tarzan is that he married the wrong Jane!

After about 30 years of studying chimpanzees in remotest Africa, she realised that she must turn her attention to conservation and environmentalism. Environmental destruction and the bush meat trade were the main threat to chimps.

Decades later, she keeps going, driven to make this planet a better place. The audience in the Aotea Centre applauded and agreed. We laughed again when she said "Some people are very good at making money, and that's fine, as long as you use it to make the world a better place. For example, give it to me!" I'm sure I wasn't the only one making a donation in the following days.

She inspired me to take my children to the Auckland zoo in the school holidays that have just passed, not least to see the orangutans. Naturally Jane mentioned orangutans and the palm oil plantations that threaten their survival. I wanted the children to see why I won't buy commercial crackers and biscuits, which were the last bastion of palm oil in our house. These days they are just as good as me at checking labels and returning items to the shelf if they don't measure up. (Well, at least when I'm with them!)

Excuse the poor photo, but this guy did not disappoint. The zoo's male orangutan is awe-inspiring. Not only is his hair red, but his crazy body hair is about a metre long! It drapes behind him in rastafarian-style dreadlocks. He wouldn't look at my camera, but framing his face are enormous cheek pouches. My Stars Wars fan of a husband tells me that orangutans were the inspiration for Chewbacca.

So here we have an iconic species that is critically endangered - but what are most of us doing about it? Looking for crackers that cost less than $3 a packet and buying flavoured smelly stuff from the supermarket. I reckon we should cut it out and start behaving ourselves!

I also love this campaign - the idea that we idolise some extinct species and think how wonderful it would be to recreate them from ancient DNA, all the while ignoring the fact that equally amazing species are still alive but on the brink of extinction.

Priorities, people!

From the Auckland Zoo palm oil website:

In New Zealand, there is currently no legal requirement for palm oil to be labelled on product packaging, so you probably don’t even know if you’re consuming it! With many names for palm oil, it can be confusing!

Palm oil can be listed as:
Palm oil kernel
Anything containing the words
“Palmitate” or “Palmate”
Elaeis Gunieensis (scientific name
for the oil palm plant)
Hydrated Palm Glycerides
Hexadecanoic or Palmitic Acid
Likely to be palm oil:
Vegetable Oil
Anything containing the
words “stearate, stearyl”
Anything containing the words
“cetyl, cetearyl”
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
Sodium Laureth Sulphate
Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate
(SDS or NaDS)
Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate
Steareth -2 and Steareth -20
Emulsifier 422, 430-436, 465-467,
470-478, 481-483, 493-495, 570


  1. It is important to remember palm oil is not just in the products we eat but also body products and make-up. Staying vigilent and reading labels, even periodically checking products you've been using for some time as formulations change, is crucial in making manufactuers accountable. Unfortunately when consumers are driven by the desire to obtain the lowest price for products there is little incentive for manufactuers to change their products.

    1. Hi, yes absolutely, thanks for the reminder. Cleaning products, shampoos, soaps etc also regularly contain palm oil or its derivatives.. Go baking soda and vinegar! I'm about to trial a non-palm oil soap - these are very difficult to find in the supermarket. I found it at a market, but they sell through a website also. I'll report on my findings when we've given it a go. It uses olive oil instead.


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