Auckland Zoo is calling on Kiwis to use their purchasing power to help protect rainforests and critically endangered wildlife like orangutans by shopping with PalmOil Scan - a free smartphone app launching in New Zealand and Australia today.

PalmOil Scan (already in use in the UK, USA, and Canada) puts the power in the hands of consumers to easily shop for products from companies committed to sourcing Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). It can be downloaded via the Apple or Google app store. 

The global app is the initiative of the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA) in partnership with palm oil experts from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (USA), Chester Zoo (UK) and Auckland Zoo (NZ) and is a tool zoos hope will help transform the palm oil industry.

“With Zoos South Australia, we’re delighted to be launching PalmOil Scan during Orangutan Caring Week (12-18 Nov). This week is all about shining a light on these extraordinary arboreal great apes, renowned for their role as gardeners of the forest, that live in the heart of the biodiverse hotspots of Indonesia and Malayasia where 85% of the world’s palm oil is grown,” says Auckland Zoo deputy curator of mammals and primate expert, Amy Robbins.

Also grown in Africa and Latin America, palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm Elaeis guineensis, and is the world’s most versatile, highest yielding (crops need 4 -10 times less land than all other vegetable oil) and widely consumed vegetable oil. It is found in more than 50% of all packaged supermarket products - from chocolates, cosmetics, and cleaning products to pet foods and toilet paper. Currently, 20% of the 8 billion tonnes produced annually is Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) – palm oil that’s certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

“Given our escalating human population’s ever-increasing demand for affordable food, and the even more environmentally harmful alternatives, palm oil remains our best vegetable oil option, when it’s grown sustainably without destroying forests,” says Amy.

Influencing change for good

Dr Sarah Thomas, Auckland Zoo’s head of conservation advocacy and engagement who has been closely involved in the app’s development along with Amy and Claudine Gibson, (Auckland Zoo’s environmental initiatives advisor) says: “people might not think that deciding what packet of biscuits to buy their whānau is the action of a conservationist, but by using PalmOil Scan, that’s exactly what they become!”

“These kinds of small everyday decisions are conservation in action, and they add up. “My hope is that every whānau in Tamaki Makaurau and communities far and wide will download the app and use it on their weekly shop to take action for wildlife and join us in our journey to drive transformational change in the palm oil industry – all through the power of our mobile phones!” 

The World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA) CEO, Dr Martin Zordon, says following its launch in the UK, USA, and Canada last year, it’s fantastic to now have Auckland Zoo and Zoos South Australia launch PalmOil Scan in Australasia.

“Since 2017 WAZA has been committed to promoting the use of CSPO. We recognise the role that choosing wisely on this matter has in conserving biodiversity and reducing deforestation across some of the most unique tropical regions of the world and see this app as a crucial initiative in explaining why zoos and aquariums care about palm oil while also empowering consumers to make sustainable decisions.”


PalmOil Scan: Putting the power in your hands to save wildlife!

Amy explains how easy it is to download and use the new PalmOil Scan app the next time you're in the supermarket, for the betterment of wildlife and wild places!

How the app works

“PalmOil Scan is a user-friendly app that enables consumers to make positive choices about the products we buy, and lets companies know that their palm oil sourcing practices are important to their customers,” explains Claudine Gibson.

 “By scanning the barcode of any product, app users receive a rating of Excellent, Good, Poor or No Commitment for the parent company that produces it, reflecting the level of this company’s commitment to sourcing Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Behind these ratings is a quantitative, scientifically robust scoring system, that’s been developed by a team of international zoo-conservation professionals and is used globally. 

“The app also has a search feature, so if users scan a product with a Poor rating, they can easily choose a more wildlife-friendly alternative. With the click of a button, users can also let app administrators know to thank companies who are doing well or to encourage companies to improve their commitment to sourcing CSPO,” says Claudine.

“We recognise, that like all of us, companies are on a journey when it comes to sustainability, which is why ratings get regularly reviewed and updated to incentivise companies to keep improving. Ultimately, as consumers’ preference for CSPO grows, this grows a demand that other companies can’t ignore and that’s a win for wildlife, wild places, and people, which is the app’s goal!”   

Orangutan Caring Week at Auckland Zoo (13-18 November)

Join Auckland Zoo in celebrating these remarkable great apes this Orangutan Caring Week.

A 12.30pm daily keeper talk at the Zoo’s Southeast Asia Jungle Track’s high canopy habitat is your opportunity to see and learn more about the Zoo’s incredibly special whānau of Bornean orangutans and how you can help their wild cousins. Zoo staff will also be around to chat with you and demonstrate how to use our new PalmOil Scan app. Our fabulous volunteers will be out in force - with an interactive orangutan-themed discovery table for you to explore and sharing their passion and knowledge about orangutans.

Tamariki Time (Wednesday and Thursday 10am – 10.30am): Bring your young whanau to sing, dance and play at this fun orangutan-themed activity (at the Rotunda lawn or Kidzone).