On October 4th 2016 there was 1000 plush orangutans strategically placed inside the Deakin Edge building at Federation Square in Melbourne. The event was an initiative of Zoos Victoria called Turn Melbourne Orange. The aim was to inform the public of the dangers of illegally sourced palm oil, the majority of which comes from the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia. The 1000 orangutans represented the estimated number that are killed each year when their habitats are destroyed.
Palm oil products are prevalent on supermarket shelves. Anything from hygiene products such as shampoos and deodorants through to household and cooking products may contain palm oil. Currently, the law doesn't require palm oil to be specifically labelled. Therefore it is able to be classed generically under vegetable oil.
While there are many companies that source palm oil by sustainable methods, there are also some that do not. Companies are not required to disclose this information, and as a result, consumers may not be aware of how the palm oil is obtained. By clearly labelling products that contain palm oil, consumers will have the ability to make an informed choice when purchasing their products.
To receive a plush orangutan people were required to do two things: wear orange to promote and support the orangutans, and sign the petition to have palm oil clearly labelled. It was encouraging to see men, women and children alike in a sea of orange, eagerly listening and learning about the plight of the orangutans.
Emcee Claire Hooper was a late replacement for Anthony "Lehmo" Lehmann. She engaged her audience with her charismatic nature, encouraging everyone to sign the petition and she also joined in the fun by wearing orange. Zoos Victoria CEO Jenny Gray also spoke passionately about why this is such an important issue.
The turn out may have been hampered by the inclement weather, but those who came enjoyed the friendly atmosphere created by the gathering of kindred spirits. As the event drew to a close, the feeling was one of positivity and hope for the future of the orangutans.