25 Oct 2019

2019 has seen the engulfing of the world’s forests as a warming planet continues to choke under smoke and flames. Despite the trials, heroes continue the fight.

26 Sep 2019

We’ve been working with Ignite TSA and 45 schools across the region to place conservation at the heart of school curriculum, empowering the conservationists of the future.

15 Nov 2018

For many years our conservationists have been working behind the scenes with key partners to help drive up standards of sustainable palm oil.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has just announced its new, improved standards which deliver deforestation free palm oil.

This marks a significant step forwards, fighting back against the habitat destruction that is pushing wildlife towards extinction.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. Up to 50% of products in an average UK supermarket now contain it.

If we were to stop using palm oil, we would need to find an alternative to supply the global demand for edible vegetable oils. Because other oil crops – such as coconuts, olives, sunflowers and maize – are less productive per square kilometre, even more land would need to be converted to agriculture – causing even greater environmental damage.

The solution is to demand sustainable, deforestation free palm oil. Write to your MP, retailers and manufacturers. Look for the RSPO label on packaging. Choose sustainable. It’s time to Act For Wildlife.

Note: The RSPO’s no deforestation standards are following the High Carbon Stock Approach. Full details off the RSPO’s updated standards can be found on their website here: https://www.rspo.org/ga/ga15/Resolutions/RSPO_P&C_2018.pdf

How Chester Zoo is fighting for orangutans

Chester Zoo cares for two groups of critically endangered orangutans as part of a crucial conservation breeding programme for the species; our conservationists are working with field partners in Borneo, utilising the zoo’s skills and resources to help protect rainforest habitats for orangutans in the wild; we are campaigning here in the UK to increase awareness and demand for sustainable palm oil among consumers; we are working behind the scenes to continue to drive up standards in the sustainable palm oil industry; and we are working with businesses to make Chester the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City.

12 Jun 2018

It is the first major gathering ever held at the Houses of Parliament to unite wide ranging experts on the issue – from across the food industry, the conservation community and British politics.  Conservationists from Chester Zoo – organising the event – will discuss the damage to rainforests caused by unsustainable palm oil production and the benefits that sustainable production can bring.

1 Mar 2018

On the guest list were a range of businesses from the city, including restaurants, cafes, hotels, visitor attractions and workplaces. The initiative, led by Chester Zoo alongside key partners in Chester and around the UK, is all about collaboration!


16 Feb 2018

Research carried out by our conservation colleague Prof Serge Wich and other incredible scientists, revealed that 100,000 orangutans have been killed in Borneo since 1999 – with hunting and deforestation the main reasons for this devastating revelation.


20 Dec 2017

A team of researchers have shown that an isolated population of orangutans from Batang Toru, Sumatra, is distinct from other Sumatran and Bornean orangutans described so far.

The study recently published in Current Biology compared the cranio-mandibular and dental characters of an orangutan from Batang Toru, killed in a human-wildlife conflict, with 33 other adult male orangutans and found consistent differences between them. The individual from Batang Toru presented significant morphological differences such as for example a shorter tympanic tube and a narrower maxillary incisor row.

Using a genomic approach, the scientists also analysed 37 orangutan genomes backing up their conclusion that this individual belongs to a separate species which they named Pongo tapanuliensis, the likely ancestor of the two other species (Pongo abelli and Pongo pygmaeus).

This new species encompasses the Batang Toru population of orangutans ‘of which fewer than 800 individuals survive’ making it the least numerous of all great ape species according to the researchers.

Catherine Barton, Field Conservation Manager at Chester Zoo, says:

It is very exciting that a new species of great ape has been discovered but the fact that the species is at such low numbers is incredibly worrying. We need to continue to work together to find solutions to these challenges to protect all species of orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra.

Catherine Barton, Field Conservation Manager

The combination of its small population size and its geographic isolation makes the newly described species at risk of extinction due to potential inbreeding isolation. External threats affecting the ape involve road construction, illegal clearing of forests, hunting, killings during crop conflict and trade in orangutans.

Dr Yenny Saraswati, a member of Chester Zoo led Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group and the Veterinary Manager for the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, explains:

The population of Pongo tapanuliensis is split into two major areas by the Sumatra fault valley and there is also a small population in the Sibual-buali Nature Reserve in the southeast of the western bloc.

Approximately 85% of the Batang Toru ecosystem is classified as ‘Protected Forest’ or ‘Nature reserve’ but unfortunately, the most important forest area with the highest number of Pongo tapanuliensis is classified as Other Use Areas (APL).

Yenny adds:

“This means that the area has a very low priority for protection by government. Protecting this area is crucial to rebuilding areas that can connect the currently fragmented population, to avoid intercrossing which could threaten the survival of the orangutan.”

These threats are also affecting Sumatran and Bornean orangutans across Indonesia and Malaysia putting numerous species at risk. We are working on the ground in Sabah, Malaysia, with our partner HUTAN to develop solutions to counter the effect of habitat fragmentation and deforestation and reconnect the fragmented landscape.

Our support includes reforestation activities, orangutan ecology research and the erection of orangutan bridges to facilitate the movement of these Critically Endangered primates.

Currently, the expanding unsustainable palm oil industry is one of the biggest threats facing the region where we are working. However, getting rid of palm oil completely is not a solution as many local communities rely heavily on palm oil for their livelihood.

This is why we are fully committed to supporting the market transformation to a fully sustainable palm oil supply to help reduce the industries impact on the environment without removing a crucial source of revenue for locals.

We are creating a demand in the UK for sustainable palm oil through our Sustainable Palm Oil Challenge and we have recently launched a new project working to make Chester a Sustainable Palm Oil City.  We’re encouraging more businesses in the region to sign up to this challenge.  Through our palm oil campaign, we are celebrating the companies who are already committed to 100% Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified sustainable palm oil, supporting those that want to be sustainable and making it easier for people to choose sustainable palm oil products.