Philadelphia Zoo Launches $10,000 University UNLESS Prize Challenge to
Help Save Orangutans from Extinction


(December 20, 2011) - In a groundbreaking initiative, the Philadelphia Zoo, America’s first Zoo, is inviting university students across the United States to join their efforts to save the critically endangered orangutan by competing to win the 2012 University UNLESS Prize. The challenge issued to university students is to develop the most innovative mobile device application to link consumers with palm oil product manufacturers and help increase market demand for certified sustainable palm oil. All students nationwide who are enrolled in a university degree program are eligible to compete. The winning team in the 2012 University UNLESS Prize challenge will be awarded $10,000.

“The Philadelphia Zoo believes that doing leads to caring,” said Kristen Lewis-Waldron, the Director of Education. “Through the 2012 UNLESS Prize, we hope to engage the creativity, innovation and social entrepreneurship of university students across the United States and have a direct and positive effect on orangutan conservation efforts.”

Palm oil is the world’s most widely-produced vegetable oil and is found in a wide array of consumer products including cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals, chips, chocolate and ice cream. According to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, palm oil can be found in almost 50% of packaged food and is an ingredient in many items including shampoo, cosmetics, lipstick and lotion. Palm oil cultivation is currently one of the leading causes of deforestation worldwide and with the rapid destruction of ecologically-complex rainforests in Sumatra and Borneo, numerous species, including orangutans, are facing extinction in the wild. If the nature of palm oil production does not change, it is estimated that wild orangutans will become extinct in as few as 25 years.

In 2012 the Philadelphia Zoo will launch “The Year of Orangutan,” a Zoo-wide commitment of cross-disciplinary creativity, energy, and resources designed to make a significant impact toward an overarching goal: Save wild orangutans from extinction. The Zoo is coordinating programming, marketing, exhibition and interpretive efforts for maximum impact toward building awareness and creating a demand for sustainable palm oil in the U.S. and around the globe. The title of the 2012 University UNLESS Prize is inspired by the timeless words of Dr. Seuss in The Lorax - “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”