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8 July 2007





Environmentalists winning fight against illegal ramin timber trade

A global crackdown on the illegal ramin timber trade appears to be working, reports a Japanese environmental group.

The HUTAN Group, a forest conservation NGO, says an international campaign to stop the import and use of ramin in Japan has resulted in a significant decline in the trade of the tree species, commerce in which was restricted in 2001 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

"Some 500 companies that had accounted for approximately 95% of ramin use in Japan had stopped the import and use of ramin by April 2007," the HUTAN Group group said in a statement. "By 2006 year about 80% of companies importing ramin in Singapore had also halted ramin imports. Due to the hard work of Telapak [an Indonesian environmental lobby group] and EIA [an international NGO], many importers in Johor Bahru in Peninsular Malaysia also stopped dealing in ramin."

The group says efforts by the Indonesian government also appear to be making it more difficult for traders to sell the illicit wood.

"Cross-border trade in ramin between Kalimantan, Indonesia and Sarawak, Malaysia was found to have largely halted as of the end of April 2007," it said. "Trade in illegal timber in general was found to have been drastically reduced in all but one location along this border, though smuggling continues between Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia."

While the results with ramin are positive, the NGO added that illegal logging and trading of merbau, ulin and other scarce species is still a problem.

"We call upon Governments, the United Nations, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the FAO, the World Bank, NGOs and corporations to cooperate in completely abolishing such illegal trade," it said.

Illegal ramin logging was blamed for large-scale destruction of Tanjung Puting National Park in southern Kalimantan on the island of Borneo shortly after the downfall of ex-president Suharto. Orangutan researcher Birut Mary Galdikas estimates that $120 million of ramin were removed from the park each year.


Assessing illegal logging

Chatham House is assessing the scale and effectiveness of the response to illegal logging and the related trade around the world. Full details of this work, including analysis and data, will be available online soon.