World Orangutan Day: Campaigners call for Starbucks boycott over palm oil use - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 19 August

Over the last two decades the world’s orangutan population has declined by more than 50 per cent.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 19 August

World Orangutan Day: Campaigners call for Starbucks boycott over palm oil use

Darren Evans

Over the last two decades the world’s orangutan population has declined by more than 50 per cent.

Despite being one of the most intelligent primate species on Earth, the orangutan is now endangered, mainly due to poaching, the illegal pet trade and loss of habitat.

In Indonesia and Malaysia vast swathes of the orangutan’s native rainforests are being removed to develop palm oil plantations. An area the size of 300 football pitches is cleared every hour to make way for oil palms and the oil derived from the crop is used in almost 50 per cent of consumer goods.

What happens to orangutans affected by this process is harrowing, according to Dr Karmele Llano Sanchez, executive director of International Animal Rescue Indonesia.

“When the forest is destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, it’s easier for hunters to find and shoot orangutans,” she said. “These hunters kill the mother and other members of the family and take the babies to sell them into the pet trade.”

Today, on World Orangutan Day, campaigners are calling on companies to only buy palm oil from sustainable sources. Wildlife charity WWF says consumers are only buying half of the sustainably produced palm oil being manufactured.

Coffee giant Starbucks has become the particular focus of attention amid claims it continues to buy palm oil from unsustainable sources for use in its baked goods, despite taking an ethical stance on other issues. Campaigners have urged a boycott of Starbucks and are sending letters of protest to its headquarters in the US city of Seattle.

Starbucks says all its products in the US and Europe use palm oil from sustainable sources and it has committed to extending this to all its stores worldwide by 2015. In recent years other companies have made similar commitments, including Unilever, Nestlé, Mars, McDonald’s and Walmart.

With fewer than 60,000 orangutans estimated to be left in the wild, action to back up the promises can’t come soon enough.


  • What is a petition? Who uses them and why?
  • What steps would you have to take if you wanted to create a petition of your own?
  • What do we mean by “sustainable” and “unsustainable” when we talk about resources?
  • How can consumers make sure that they make ethical choices in the goods that they buy?

Related resources

Saving Armstrong: Sumatran deforestation

  • This engaging animation follows Armstrong, an orangutan, who lives in the rainforests of the island of Sumatra. The bad news is that his precious home is being destroyed at an alarming rate.

Palm oil: The Tin of Truth

  • Research the issues surrounding palm oil, compare the differences in the stories that they tell and then create the messaging for a tin of palm oil from the different points of view.

Sumatra’s sustainable palm oil

  • This video highlights how Sumatran farmers produce palm oil sustainably to protect Indonesia’s remaining rainforest.

Endangered orangutans

  • Help children understand about endangered animals and conservation efforts with this Hamilton Trust resource on orangutans.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week

For the first time in 35 years, a newly discovered carnivorous mammal living in the Western hemisphere has become an official member of the animal kingdom. And, after a case of mistaken identity spanning half a century, it is not before time.

Obscure British regional accents that died out during the last century have been brought to life once more with the discovery of forgotten recordings of First World War prisoners.

Tian Tian, one of the giant pandas at the zoo, is expecting a cub in late August or early September.

Online bullying has rarely been out of the news this summer, from the abuse directed at feminist campaigners on Twitter to the tragic story of a schoolgirl who killed herself last week, apparently after being targeted by cyber-bullies.

In the news archive index