Orangutans need our help - Amy Robbins video

Auckland Zoo's primate team leader Amy Robbins, 38, lives on the Te Atatu Peninsula with her husband, two kids, three chickens, a goldfish and a cat.

Amy Robbins with baby orangutans at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme's centre in Sumatra. These youngsters ...
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Amy Robbins with baby orangutans at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme's centre in Sumatra. These youngsters have either been orphaned or confiscated and need 24 hour care.

How long have you lived in Te Atatu and where are you originally from? I'm originally from Tauranga and I've been Auckland for 16 years, and on the peninsula for the past 11 years.

If you were Auckland's mayor what would you do? I've never even considered that in my life. It's not a job I'd particularly aspire to, I'd rather leave it to someone else. Although I don't like the amount of money I fork out in rates every year – but I don't think there's much we can do about that. I think I'd try and create more of a connection to the environment and to green spaces and nature, particularly in schools. Learning outside the classroom at the zoo, out on the beach or in the Waitakeres, make that more of a part of mainstream learning would be a big thing that I'd try and tackle. I have no idea how though.

You are currently lobbying the Government to help save orangutans. Tell us about this. The focus is on asking for choice, and that choice is whether or not we know if palm oil is in the products that we buy. There's no law in Australia and New Zealand currently that palm oil has to be labelled clearly. It can be called palm oil, vegetable oil or a whole bunch of different numbers – so you don't know that you are buying it. Over half the products you buy in the supermarkets have some form of palm oil in it. Indonesia and Malaysia, where orangutans are critically endangered, produce 90 per cent of the world's palm oil. If we can have mandatory labelling it's going to have a significant impact in driving the sustainable palm oil market that we so desperately need.

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Zookeeper Amy Robbins speaks on palm oil from the rainforest of Sumatra.

Why don't you like palm oil? The product itself is great, it's very versatile and requires less land than other oilseed crops. The issue is that it's produced in an unsustainable way. Companies log the forest for timber then they burn it and kill everything in sight to plant the plantations.

What do you like best about west Auckland? I love all the options, particularly since we had kids we have realised how much Auckland, particularly west Auckland, has to offer – like beaches and outdoor spaces. There's just so much to do for families and kids. We are always busy at weekends, and it doesn't have to cost much. You don't have to drive for miles and miles. We are always looking for outdoor nature stuff because our son is really into that.

What do you like least and what would should be done about it? I would love to catch the bus to work at the zoo because I live so close. But the bus there and back costs me $11 a day, and that's ridiculous. I live 10 minutes from work. We spend a lot of time in traffic and trying to get out of Auckland on a weekend ... just trying to get off the motorway and out of that traffic is ridiculous. I do really appreciate what has happened on the motorway between work and Te Atatu, they have increased the capacity of the traffic to go through there. Traffic is a big thing for me, especially coming from Tauranga where there is no such thing as traffic.

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Charlie the orangutan at Auckland Zoo.
SIMON SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Charlie the orangutan at Auckland Zoo.

 - Stuff

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