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This aerial photo taken March 3, 2018 shows a protected area of the Rawa Singkil wildlife reserve being burnt in preparation for the opening of a new palm oil plantation. JANUAR / AFP / Getty Images

By Basten Gokkon

Major consumer brands including Nestlé, Kellogg's and The Hershey Company have been getting some of their palm oil from an illegal plantation inside a protected forest that holds the highest density of critically endangered orangutans anywhere on Earth, a new report says.

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Orange-red oil palm fruit produces two kinds of oil: "palm oil" from the flesh, "palm kernel oil" from the seed. dolphfyn / iStock / Getty Images

By Helen A. Lee

We cook with it. We bathe with it. We use it for mood lighting. Palm oil is an ingredient in processed foods, cosmetics, hygiene products, biofuels and candles; experts estimate it's found in 50 percent of the items on grocery store shelves. Inexpensive to produce, palm oil contains no trans fats, and has a high melting point, making it versatile and easy to spread. The result: increasing demand. In 1996, global production totaled 16 million metric tons. By 2017, it was 60.7 million.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Background image: Pixabay

By John R. Platt

Looking for something new to read? We've got you covered. Here are our picks for the best environmentally themed books of May 2019 — and it's quite a collection, with 13 new titles about a pioneering conservationist, the history of water woes in California, the dirty legacy (and future) of coal and even the psychology of climate change.

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Sustainability activist and Instagram influencer Margarita Samsonova speaks with EcoWatch on her experience as a volunteer worker abroad. Facebook Live

EcoWatch teamed up with sustainability activist and Instagram influencer Margarita Samsonova via Facebook Live to give you the tools you need to make a massive impact on this planet through volunteer work.

Here are five steps including valuable "pro-tips" to get you on your way to a life-changing experience as a volunteer abroad.

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Deforestation on peatland for palm oil plantation in Borneo, Indonesia. glennhurowitz / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

The world's largest palm oil trader released plans on Monday to increase its efforts to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain.

Wilmar International, which supplies 40 percent of the world's palm oil, has teamed up with the sustainability consultancy Aidenvironment Asia to develop a comprehensive mapping database to better monitor the company's palm oil supplier group.

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After spending eight weeks in quarantine, Amy was escorted to forest school to begin her rehabilitation, excited to meet her new friends and begin her journey into to the wild. International Animal Rescue

By Alan Knight

At the end of September, four rescued orangutans returned to their home in the rainforest after undergoing lengthy rehabilitation at International Animal Rescue's (IAR) conservation center in West Borneo, where I work as a chief executive. Amy, Kepo, Ongky and Rambo had been rescued by our Orangutan Protection Unit at various times during the previous eight years. They then joined 100 other orangutans at the center being meticulously prepared for life back in the wild by our dedicated team of vets and caregivers.

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Freder / E+ / Getty Images

We already know that orangutans are some of the smartest land animals on Earth. Now, researchers have found evidence that these amazing apes can communicate about past events—the first time this trait has been observed in a non-human primate.

A new study published in the journal Science Advances revealed that when wild Sumatran orangutan mothers spotted a predator, they suppressed their alarm calls to others until the threat was no longer there.

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A baby orangutan at the Orangutan Foundation International Care Center in Pangkalan Bun. Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace. A display of Oreo variations at The Museum of Failure in Los Angeles on Dec. 7, 2017. ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

Greenpeace International published a new report on Tuesday accusing Mondelēz International of sourcing palm oil from "rainforest destroyers."

Palm oil is an ingredient in many of the company's popular products, including Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers and Cadbury chocolate bars.

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The Orangutans in Indonesia have been known to be on the verge of extinction as a result of deforestation and poaching.
Ulet Ifansasti / Getty Images News

By Edward Davey

The world is vastly underestimating the benefits of acting on climate change. Recent research from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate finds that bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in economic benefits through 2030. This ground-breaking research, produced by the Global Commission and more than 200 experts, highlights proof points of the global shift to a low-carbon economy, and identifies ways to accelerate action in five sectors: energy, cities, food and land use, water and industry. Our blog series, The $26 Trillion Opportunity, explores these economic opportunities in greater detail.

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Proboscis monkey sub-mature male feeding on leaves. Anup Shah / Getty Images

By Jason Bittel

At last count, there were 505 nonhuman primate species living in the wilds of 90 countries across the globe. That might make you think of Earth as the Planet of the Apes (plus monkeys, lemurs, tarsiers and lorises), but according to a large study published last month, those statistics are a little misleading.

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Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme / Maxime Aliaga

By Sara Novak

You can't protect an animal that you don't know exists. Tapanuli orangutans, for example, are found only in the Tapanuli region of Sumatra; they were only identified as a species last year, when scientists found them to be genetically different from other Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. With just 800 left, this newly discovered species is the most critically endangered ape.

It's hard to believe that with only seven great ape species on the planet—Tapanuli, Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, eastern and western gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos—a species could have gone undiscovered until 2017. But, in fact, new research shows that many mammals still fly under the radar.

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