Greenpeace discovers timber smuggling is driving tree species towards Extinction

Press release - 2007-04-17
Greenpeace today released “Merbau’s Last Stand” , an investigative report revealing four distinct smuggling methods being used to bring merbau, an endangered tree species, into China. Merbau , a highly prized tropical hardwood that costs more than $600us per cubic meter, is used to manufacture high-end luxury products. It now faces extinction in the wild within 35 years based on officially sanctioned logging rates, the report found, and illegal logging and trade will dramatically shorten that time period.

Merbau in Zhangjiagang port, Jiangsu province

Although in 2001 Indonesia banned the export of raw logs, Greenpeace researchers found that in 2006 thousands of cubic meters of logs entered ports in China from Indonesia, including containerized logs falsely labeled as sawn timber. Of almost 36,000 cubic meters of logs, 7,736 of these were merbau, in clear violation of the export ban. Merbau has also been imported from Indonesia utilizing forged documentation labeling the timber as Malaysian, despite the fact that Malaysia has virtually wiped out its own merbau.

 

China is also importing merbau from illegal logging concessions in Papua New Guinea to make high-end products for consumption in China as well as overseas. "This is a highly prized species for luxury goods and the market demand in China as well as in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific is driving merbau to extinction," said Tamara Stark, Greenpeace China's Forests Campaign Coordinator. "If the current trends are not reversed, even at the current legally approved rates of logging merbau will be extinct in the wild within 35 years. This illegal trade means we'll lose it much sooner than that."

A new Greenpeace forests mapping project graphically illustrates how the future of merbau is at risk, with current logging concessions threatening the future of all but 17 per cent of the merbau on the island of New Guinea.

The report sounded an alarm bell not only for the future of merbau and the rainforests of Asia Pacific, but also for the future of China's wood industry. "If the manufacturing sector here continues to rely on endangered species or wood that is illegal, large portions of the industry may collapse in the near future," said Liu Bing, Forests Campaigner in China. "Increasingly species like merbau are being pushed to the brink, and eventually we're going to run out. These traders are risking China's reputation and the future of the industry, not to mention the future of the world's forests."

China is now the second-largest wood manufacturing sector in the world, and the largest trader in tropical timber. One out of every two tropical logs traded globally is now destined for China, and China is the world's largest market for merbau.

Greenpeace is calling on the governments of Indonesia and PNG to immediately propose merbau for listing on the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species to control the trade of this species and calling on governments in market countries to immediately adopt legislation to ban the import of illegal timber into their markets. Wood manufacturers should adopt credible chain-of-custody tracking of merbau and other species to ensure the legality and sustainability of supply, moving towards only purchasing timber that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Other contacts:

Sarah LIANG, Media Officer, Greenpeace China, +86139 111 52514
Tamara Stark, Forest Campaign Manager, Greenpeace China, +86 139 114 63963
Bing LIU, Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace China, +86 139 1090 7835

Other contacts:

Sarah LIANG, Media Officer, Greenpeace China, +86139 111 52514
Tamara Stark, Forest Campaign Manager, Greenpeace China, +86 139 114 63963
Bing LIU, Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace China, +86 139 1090 7835

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