Popular zoos, aquariums take up sustainable palm oil cause

Corypha Umbraculifera is one of the largest palms in the world. 

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to promote the importance of more sustainable approaches to palm oil production.

The group, which represents more than 400 zoos and aquariums in 50 countries that are "united in conservation," has agreed to work with the RSPO to help transform the global market to make sustainably certified palm oil "the norm."

"More than 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums every year, which is why WAZA members can play a vital role in informing visitors of the devastating effects of unsustainable palm oil production," said WAZA chief executive Doug Cress. "This agreement with RSPO offers the WAZA community the resources to change consumer behavior and lead by example."

He added that the five-year agreement also set a goal of ensuring more than half of WAZA's membership are only sourcing sustainable palm oil by 2023. Some of the organization's members include the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, the Houston Zoo, Sea World Orlando, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Hong Zong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.

Palm oil is a $65 billion industry, which supplies oil to a wide range of food, cosmetics and consumer goods companies. However, it has been widely blamed for fueling deforestation in tropical regions, leading to habitat loss and greenhouse gas emissions.

Some of the industry's leading players support the RSPO, which certifies palm oil plantations that adhere to sustainability standards designed to limit deforestation, protect areas of high conservation value and minimize greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts.

However, industry insiders have warned that despite sourcing commitments from a number of high-profile consumer goods firms and restaurant chains, demand for sustainable certified palm oil accounts for a fraction of the overall market.

Darrel Webber, chief executive at the RSPO, said the new partnership would provide the group with an "ally to educate consumers and thereafter encourage them to pull the sustainable palm oil supply chain.

"This will be the incentive for producers to be allies with WAZA members, in conserving important landscapes and wildlife species."

Under the agreement, WAZA also will participate in the RSPO Biodiversity and High Conservation Value Working Group to provide information on how to deliver effective conservation projects across the industry.

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