CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO HOSTS FIRST-EVER
SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL SYMPOSIUM FOR NORTH AMERICAN ZOOS
—Symposium aimed at raising awareness about sustainable palm oil among zoo guests–
What if more than 220 Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions partnered with their 180 million annual guests in a conservation movement? The unified voice would be loud, and the change would be powerful. Encouraging more AZA institutions to create their own sustainable palm oil awareness programs is one of the many goals of the first-ever Palm Oil Symposium for North American zoos and aquariums, which is being hosted by Cheyenne Mountain Zoo this week in conjunction with the AZA.
The event is bringing together zoo and aquarium professionals and key conservationists to address issues surrounding the palm oil crisis: achieving sustainability, supporting improvements to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), how to stop deforestation for the production of palm oil and how to engage zoo audiences in the palm oil crisis. Presentations and discussions are planned for Wednesday, April 16 and Thursday, April 17, and meeting of the AZA Palm Oil Crisis Task Force will round out the week on Friday April 18.
The symposium was initiated and planned by Cheyenne Mountain Zoo staff, who have been focusing on raising awareness of the palm oil crisis since 2007.
“Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has been working for nearly seven years on palm oil awareness and calling our guests to action,” Tracey Gazibara, Vice President of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, said. “We are confident if we can get AZA zoos speaking with a unified voice, we will make a huge impact on the palm oil industry and the move toward 100% segregated certified sustainable palm oil that is deforestation free. We are 180 million guests strong – that’s a lot of consumers who can speak out.”
The symposium centers on the palm oil crisis, which is affecting the rainforest homes of wild orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. Palm oil is found in millions of products that we purchase every day. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo supports purchasing products made by RSPO-member companies, who have made a commitment to grow the crop sustainably and help protect the future of orangutans and many other species.
The Palm Oil Symposium will feature guest speakers including Michelle Desilets, Orangutan Land Trust; John Van’t Slot, The Forest Trust; John Buchanan, Conservation International. Also presenting will be Valerie Peckham, Philadelphia Zoo; Suzanne Hall, San Diego Global; and Dina Bredahl and Mandy Hester, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
“We have big ambitions for the two-day symposium,” Gazibara said. “We know we are facing huge challenges to make a real change in the industry, but we are ‘all in’ and willing to do the work.”
In 2010, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was the first zoo to create a printed sustainable palm oil shopping guide. In 2010, CMZ was the first zoo in the world to join the RSPO, and in 2013, CMZ developed and launched a sustainable palm oil shopping guide app for smart phones. Two members of the Zoo’s staff, Bredahl and Gazibara, are on the AZA Palm Oil Crisis Task Force. The Zoo will continue to empower other AZA zoos and zoo guests to take a stand for animals being threatened and endangered due to non-sustainable palm oil.
“We want to give our guests a clear message on how they can make a difference for wildlife and wild places,” said Dina Bredahl, Animal Care Manager at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. “And we want to make 100% segregated certified sustainable palm oil that is deforestation free the industry norm.”