Global action for ancient forests

Feature story - 23 June, 2003
Throughout the world, ancient forests are under threat. Many of the plants and animals that live in these forests face extinction. And many of the people and cultures who depend on these forests for their way of life are at risk. We are taking action now to stop the destruction around the world. Join us.

Greenpeace activists uncover a shipment of conflict timber on the MV Mentor in the Italian port of Salerno.

Action Updates

Monday 23rd June:

Greenpeace activists early this morning climbed onboard the timber transport vessel "Tradco" in Ravenna, Italy. At 5.00 hours 25 activists locked themselves to the ship's cranes thus preventing any off-loading of timber from African forests. Banners that read: "Save the Ancient Forests" and "Forest Crime" were displayed from the cranes.

The timber on board comes from the rainforests of the Congo Basin in Central Africa. The Congo Basin forms the last big intact forests of Africa, a region of very high ecological value upon which many forest dwelling communities depend.

Italy is a major importer of timber coming from African rainforest destruction. Industrial logging in Africa is often carried out in a highly destructive way and illegal logging is rampant in the entire region. Logging often creates major social conflicts and it is the driving factor for the commercial bushmeat trade in the region, which is now rapidly wiping out endangered animals such as forest elephants, chimpanzees and lowland gorillas. Italy is doing very little to prevent such imports, especially from companies involved in this deliberate destruction.

Friday 13th June:

Greenpeace activists intercepted a transport vessel carrying timber from the rainforests in Cameroon. Activists from onboard the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace flagship, prevented the M.V. "Honour" from entering the Valencia harbour in Spain. Activists are currently secured on Harbour Pilot ladders and on the cranes of the vessel.

"The Honour is transporting timber from Cameroon, a country that is plagued by poor governance, lack of transparency in the timber sector and illegal logging," said Miguel Angel Soto from onboard the Rainbow Warrior. "Industrial logging is destroying the habitat of endangered species such as the Forest Elephant and the Western Lowland Gorilla."

There's a new European Commission Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, but it does not adequately address the severity of illegal logging. Notably, it falls short on implementing new legislation to ban the trade in illegally harvested timber.

"European governments should rightfully be undertaking the task that Greenpeace performs today," added Soto. "New legislation is needed in Europe to block the importation of illegal and destructive timber."

The destruction of the world's last ancient forests robs local peoples of the resources needed for their survival. We are campaigning to protect the world's remaining ancient forests by promoting ecologically sustainable and social responsible forest use and the establishment of protected areas. Protected forest areas should be dedicated to the conservation of their biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and should be established and managed respecting traditional land rights--particularly those of indigenous peoples. They should be protected from road building and industrial activities.

Wednesday 4th June:

Volunteers occupied the construction site of the new UK Home Office HQ in London and declared it an ancient forest crime scene. Eleven climbers scaled and occupied four huge cranes on the site and hung banners saying 'Rainforest Demolition Site'.

Our investigation revealed that Government contractors are using illegal and destructively logged plywood from Indonesia's last remaining rainforests. The plywood - used for the site hoardings and to hold wet concrete in place while it sets - has been supplied by timber barons notorious for illegal logging, environmental destruction, corruption and human rights abuses.

For more information visit the UK site.

Greenpeace activists boarded a riverboat in Middle land Channel in Germany as it attempted to deliver timber from the last ancient forests of Africa. Twenty-four activists climbed on to the Riverboat "Ilmenau" loaded with timber from Liberia. Activists also chained themselves to the cranes of the Wagner Company, owner of the timber. Liberian timber is contentious as it is believed to be a major trading item in the armed conflict in that country.

At the same time more activists in Barcelona delivered a log from Liberia to the government offices in Catalonia to protest against Spain's involvement in the destruction of those sensitive forests. The log belongs to the Maderas Perarnau from Carnet de Mar, a company trading timber from Liberia where revenues from timber exports are used to fuel armed conflict, and timber from Careroonian timber exporters heavily involved in illegal logging. Maderas Perarnau belongs to the Spanish Association of Timber Importers (AEIM) who has a "code of conduct" not to buy timber from dubious sources. Greenpeace has repeatedly asked the company to stop buying Liberian timber and illegal timber in general without response.

Amazon Rainforest

Activists in Germany exposed evidence of rainforest destruction and contamination from the WestLB Bank's investment in an oil pipeline that runs through Ecuador's Amazon rainforest. The activists laid out a red carpet with oil stains and placed yellow oil drums before the head office of what is the biggest German public bank to demonstrate the extent of the destruction of the rainforest by German investment.

"This is the evidence of WestLB's true record," said Sandra Pfotenhauer Greenpeace campaigner on the scene. "Contaminated rivers that flow through what until recently was a pristine forest."

For more information visit the German site.

African Rainforest

Activists onboard the Rainbow Warrior uncovered approximately 8000 cubic metres of criminal timber from Liberia, Cameroon and the Congo in Sète, France. France is the largest importer of tropical timber in Europe. Once on the French market, almost one quarter of the imported timber is used in government buildings and projects. Each year, about 120,000 tonnes of tropical wood arrives in Sète. Most of it comes from Africa.

Liberian timber is now recognised by the United Nations Security Council for fuelling a bloody regional conflict in West Africa. After two years of campaigning by Greenpeace and Global Witness, the UN Security Council imposed further sanctions on Liberia to include a ban on all exports of timber. Until the decision last week, France had not acted upon the concerns expressed by Greenpeace and Global Witness about the import of conflict timber. The French government must now do everything possible to stop the import of such timber and other timber coming from the destruction of the ancient forests around the world.

Read updates from the activists on board the Rainbow Warrior.

Take Action: Send a letter to Danish-owned international timber traders DLH Group. The UN recently recognised that the Liberian logging industry fuels war, as well as environmental destruction and human rights abuses. DLH is currently continuing to import Liberian timber. Take action for the forest today by sending a letter to the CEO asking him to stop all Liberian timber imports now.

Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon rainforest is more than ancient trees and endangered species. It is home for millions of people and their way of life is often threatened by forest destruction. This was the case for the Deni Indians whose land was under threat by a foreign logging company.

The Deni Indians live in a remote area of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, a community of little more than 600 people. They have had little contact with the outside world and their way of life - food, fishing, even religious beliefs - are all intricately linked to the forest that surrounds them. But their community was threatened several years ago when a Malaysian logging company illegally purchased logging rights that overlapped with the Deni territory. The Deni fought back, determined to protect the forest they depend on and their unique culture. And now they have won.

Read more about their courageous story.

African Rainforest

While many people know diamonds are not best friends with regional stability in West Africa, the timber industry quietly stepped in to support arms trafficking in Liberia both logistically and financially. But after two years of intense campaigning, the United Nations Security Council has extended sanctions on Liberia to include timber exports that fuel arms trafficking, paramilitary activity, environmental destruction and human rights abuses.

Read more about the timber sanctions.

Take action: Help stop bloody timber imports. Ask German timber company Offermann who is still importing Liberian timber to cancel any existing contracts immediately and ensure that in the future all the timber they import comes from legal and sustainable sources.

Canada's Temperate Rainforest

Dressed as ten-feet tall trees, activists marched on the British Columbia legislature in Victoria in a reenactment from a scene in Lord of the Rings, Two Towers, where walking trees, known as Ents, rise up to overthrow the regime of the malevolent lord, who devastated the forests for years.

"Much like Saruman in Lord of the Rings, Premier Gordon Campbell seems intent on destroying our ancient forests," said Tamara Stark, Greenpeace's forests campaign coordinator in Canada. "The government wants to hand over half the land mass of British Columbia to logging companies and other developers and if these policies go through, Beautiful BC - like Middle Earth - will become a land of stumps."

For more information visit the Canadian site.

Finland's Ancient Forests

Even in a wealthy, forest rich nation like Finland, industrial logging is jeopardising the survival of the country's last ancient forests. Forests which are crucial for maintaining biodiversity and the traditional livelihoods of the indigenous Sami people and other communities. Over 500 species are also threatened due to deforestation. This logging is driven by the country's massive international paper industry.

Activists from nine countries protested the import of paper from Finnish forests onboard the freighter "Finnhawk" in the Baltic Sea near Luebeck, Germany. The Finnish government continues to log Finland's rare and vulnerable forest habitats despite calls from scientists and conservationists for increased protection.

Read more about the Finnish forests and paper industry.

African Rainforests

Tucked into the nook of Africa's western coastline, Cameroon's landscape is a contradiction of dry and vast savannahs in the north and humid, dense tropical forests in the south. Ecologically and culturally, Cameroon is extremely rich. More than 200 ethnic groups make their homes in Cameroon. And the area has a particularly high diversity of wildlife - over 400 mammal species, almost 700 bird species and countless species of plants. But in this region, illegal and destructive logging practices are the norm and three Dutch companies are at the heart of the problem.

Read more about illegal logging in Cameroon.

What can you do?

Once African sawn timber arrives on the market, it is impossible for customers to verify whether it is legal. Logs from legal and illegal sources are easily mixed and could be processed together in Cameroon sawmills or at their destination. What you can do is make sure that any timber products you buy are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council™ or FSC®.

The FSC is an international non-profit organisation that issues certificates for well managed forests and was created so that corporate buyers and individual consumers can identify products coming from responsible forest management. Look for the FSC logo to the left on wood products to make sure you aren't buying forest destruction or supporting illegal logging around the world.