Illegal Orangutan Skulls Found On Palm Oil Plantations


Written by Hillary Lehr, an activist at Rainforest Action Network

An article in yesterday’s Jakarta Post identifies the role of palm oil plantations in the illegal souvenir trade of the skulls of endangered orangutans. Indonesia-based Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) has reported four orangutan skulls found on a palm oil plantation in Central Kalimantan and another orangutan corpse buried on a palm oil plantation in East Kalimantan.

As Indonesia’s biodiverse rainforests are destroyed and fragmented, leading to the rapid decimation of critical habitat to make way for corporate agribusiness operations, orangutan populations become more vulnerable to poachers. And the fact that many palm oil plantations pay their workers wages so low that they’re on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Red List for Slave Labor is only exacerbating the problem of illegal poaching of nearby apes for the lucrative souvenir trade of orangutan skull (even as these plantations nose up to the last bits of orangutan habitat, no less).

As the Jakarta Post article states, effective government enforcement of existing anti-poaching and animal trade laws is needed urgently. It is also the responsibility of the palm oil plantations creating this nightmarish situation to not house or promote these illegal operations. Similarly, major U.S.  importers of this bloodied palm oil, like Cargill Inc., should have policies for their palm oil imports that specific creates safeguards against both the human exploitation and animal cruelty from entering this commodity’s supply chain.

This is a situation where fast action is needed. Fortunately, there are activists, researchers, scientists, and communities taking a stand. Together, we can accumulate knowledge and solutions. You can read a first-hand account of Sean Whyte, an inspiring orangutan activist, and his network of Ape Crusaders (the title of his newest book) at

Want to take action? Make sure palm oil plantations don’t get away with these injustices.

This post was originally published on Rainforest Action Network’s blog, the Understory.


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Eating Our Cousins: Jane Goodall And The Bushmeat Crisis

Orangutan Uses Wet Towel To Cool Off (Video)

Photo from muzina_shanghai via flickr creative commons


William C
William C2 months ago

Terrible, thanks for the information.

W. C
W. C12 months ago

Thank you.

isabelle f.
isabelle f3 years ago

Horrific !!Thanks for sharing

Richard Hancock
Richard Hancock4 years ago

Horrifying....when will people wake up and ban palm oil from being imported?

Aud Nordby
Aud nordby4 years ago


Manuela Annofsky
Manuela Gewert4 years ago

Das macht mich so wütend und traurig zu gleich :(

Christine Daniels

so incredibly selfish

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Pogle S.
Pogle S5 years ago

My heart bleeds Alex H. You are not wrong, we are all victims...or soon will be and if I could send you another Green star I would! :-)>

Pogle S.
Pogle S5 years ago

This is worse than the situation in Syria and sadly Orangutans cannot be armed to resist this deadly incursion into and total destruction of their homes! I feel so heavy-hearted for their plight. My only hope is that along with other awakened humans we can make this issue a turning point for everybody. This genocide of living beings cannot be tolerated and should desist forthwith before I rise up!