More on pitcher plants and palm oil free cookies…

Dear Sheryl, Teresa and F J Pechir, Thank you for your questions.

The water in pitcher plant holds a variety of detritus and insects, however it appears the plants only digest the insects, as it is the protein they are seeking. Pitcher plants are typically found in areas of poor soils and scientist believe the eating of insects evolved as a means of ‘topping up’ the plant's nutrient intake. It is a good question about what happens to the water; I have never thought about it. I have never seen a pitcher full to the brim, so my guess is the bowl is not completely water tight and excess water is allowed to seep out. Pitcher plants are not poisonous. Monkeys eat their leaves but nothing appears to eat the pitchers themselves - which probably reflects the poor nutrient quality. Certainly orangutans have never been seen eating them. However, it is a common "dare" amongst the Field Assistants to drink the water. I can vouch for the fact it is harmless.

Sheryl's comment on the lady not selling cookies until they find bakers who are environmentally responsible was interesting. The Orangutan Foundation is working with one such company in the UK, Paterson Arran, who are leading the UK biscuit industry in finding replacements for palm oil. They use olive and rapeseed oil in its place. As they told us, the transition wasn’t easy. On the first attempt at a palm oil free chocolate chip cookie, all the chocolate chips fell out! Fortunately, they persevered and managed to overcome the problem. Interestingly, Paterson Arran are always quick to point out the switch isn’t just good for orangutans; they calculated changing from palm oil resulted in a 60-70% reduction in saturated fat….

Unfortunately we don't have any more information about the situation in Bukit Tigapuluh at the moment other than that in the report by WWF. A number of local NGO's in Jambi/Riau are working hard on this issue and if we do hear from our colleagues we will keep you updated.