Lawlessness and international demand driving forest extinction

Press release - April 17, 2007
A new Greenpeace report, ‘Merbau’s Last Stand’(1), launched today warns that the tropical hardwood species merbau (or kwila) will be extinct within 35 years or less if action is not taken to stop the destructive logging and trade of the species.

Merbau distribution globally.

Merbau distribution on in the island of New Guinea.

Merbau tradeflow.

Logging concessions in merbau.

Probable merbau distribution after logging.

Merbau, once common from Eastern Africa throughout Asia and Oceania as far east as Tahiti, is only found in significant quantities today on the island of New Guinea, in Papua, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (PNG).  The World Conservation Union lists merbau as 'facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future', and although Indonesia has stated that it intended to list merbau on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), that has never occurred.(2)

New maps produced by Greenpeace show that, of the forests once housing the last healthy populations of merbau on New Guinea island, 83% has already been logged or is allocated for logging, and only 17% is, for the moment, not on the chopping block. (3)

"Merbau is a highly prized tree species for luxury goods. Market demand in China as well as in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific is driving it to extinction," said Sue Connor, Greenpeace International Paradise Forests coordinator. "Merbau is being heavily targeted by both licensed and illegal logging operations on the island of New Guinea."

Merbau is a highly prized tropical hardwood that costs more than US$600 per cubic metre (roundwood) and is used to manufacture high-end luxury wooden products. Global demand for merbau products has already wiped out most of the world's merbau forests. China is now the world's largest market for merbau and the largest consumer of tropical logs in the world.

Greenpeace research identified several illegal smuggling routes used to get merbau logs out of Indonesia into China.   In 2006, thousands of cubic metres of Indonesian merbau logs entered ports in China in spite of an export ban on logs from Indonesia. This included logs hidden in containers falsely labelled as sawn timber. China also imports merbau from illegal logging concessions in Papua New Guinea.

"The unrestrained trading of merbau is symptomatic of the sheer destruction now taking place in Indonesian forests. Unless the Indonesian government takes immediate action to severely restrict the trade of this highly vulnerable species and declares a moratorium on large-scale commercial logging operations,   we can expect the extinction and irreversible destruction not only of merbau but  of  entire forest landscapes in the country,"  according to Hapsoro, forest campaigner of Greenpeace in Southeast Asia.

"Rampant logging, both legal and illegal, timber smuggling and the strong market demand for this endangered tree species are driving destruction of the last intact forests in Asia Pacific. Unless the illegal and destructive logging halts and the smuggling racket stops, this species will be extinct in less than 35 years" said Connor. "The time for action is now. Expansion of logging in intact forests must stop, merbau must be protected under CITES and market countries must implement legislation to stop illegal and destructive timber being sold in their markets."

Other contacts: Tamara Stark, Greenpeace China Forests Team Leader (Beijing): Mob: +(86) 1391146 3963 Sue Connor, Greenpeace International Paradise Forests coordinator (Amsterdam): Mob: +316 4616 2024 Tiy Chung, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Forests Media Officer (Sydney): Desk: +612 9263 0380 Mob: +61 409604010

Notes: (1) Merbau’s Last Stand: How Industrial Logging is Driving the Destruction of the Paradise Forests of Asia Pacific. Greenpeace (2007). (2) IUCN, Red List of Endangered Species, 2006. IUCN.; Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, Twenty Second Meeting of the Animals Committee, 2006 3(b)(i) Review of Appendices. (3)