Extinction stalks Myanmar’s forests

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Ashen earth strewn with the limbs of after-mighty trees is all that is left of the fearsome forest in central Myanmar that Wa Tote remembers from her youth.

Extinction stalks Myanmar's forests
A worker carries a saw where teak trees once grew in the Bago Region of Myanmar after
the land was scorched ahead of replanting [Credit: AFP/Ye Aung Thu]

“We would only dare enter in a big group. The forest was deep and had several wild animals. Now we cannot even obtain a tree’s shadow to shelter beneath when we are tired,” the 72-year-old told AFP.

At 1 point tigers have been so frequent in the area that their bones were traded cheaply. Now they have vanished into memory.

Substantial swathes of the undulating landscape of the Bago mountains have been stripped bare by logging firms more than current years and the last remnants of wood are becoming burnt.

Locals say there are plans to replant the region with beneficial teak trees‚ÄĒthough even if they do, these will take up to 80 years to attain maturity.

Logging in Myanmar exploded below the former junta, as the generals tossed aside sustainable forestry practices in their thirst to money in on vast organic sources.

Specialists say an insatiable planet appetite for precious hardwoods is threatening uncommon species and helping to drive deforestation in one of the final big regions of tropical forest in Asia.

The nation lost nearly 20 % of its forest cover amongst 1990 and 2010, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Extinction stalks Myanmar's forests
An insatiable world appetite for precious hardwoods is threatening rare species and
 helping to drive deforestation in one of the last major areas of tropical
forest in Asia [Credit: AFP/Ye Aung Thu]

Widespread degradation of the most densely wooded regions signifies that so-named “closed forest” extra than halved in size, from 30.9 million to 13.four million hectares.

Authorities say corruption and poor protection have enabled rampant illegal logging that lines the pockets of crony businessmen, soldiers and rebels groups alike.

A quasi-civilian government that replaced outright military rule in 2011 has sought to stem the flood of timber from the nation with a ban on the export of raw logs which took effect on April 1.

“Our ban will be quite helpful. There will be cutting, distribution and finishing of timber solutions locally, so that we can also boost employment possibilities,” mentioned the director general of the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, Tin Tun.

Wildlife group WWF stated the most significant driver of forest loss has been substantial-scale conversion for agriculture, frequently soon after woodland is degraded by logging or the collection of wood for fuel.

It welcomed the export ban and stated the government has also slashed quotas for teak and other hardwoods by 60 percent and 50 percent respectively for the coming fiscal year compared to 2012/13.

“But provided the high volume of illegal logging and exports in Myanmar, it will take a long time prior to we see how successful the ban will be,” said WWF’s Myanmar conservation programme manager Michelle Owen.

Appetite for destruction

In mountainous northern Myanmar close to the Chinese border, logging roads score the landscape as firms drive ever deeper into pristine forests.

Extinction stalks Myanmar's forests
A worker clears the area where teak trees once grew in the Bago Region of Myanmar
after the land was scorched ahead of replanting [Credit: AFP/Ye Aung Thu]

“Stopping logging has to come about now,” mentioned Frank Momberg of conservation group Flora and Fauna International, which is struggling to guard the newly discovered and critically endangered Myanmar snub nosed monkey.

There are thought to be barely 300 of the flat-faced primates left in the dense forests of Kachin state at the eastern tip of the Himalayas.

Big scale mechanical felling is stripping even steep hillsides, with the loss of tree cover causing landslides and additional environmental destruction, conservationists warn.

Chinese workers have flooded into the area, fuelling demand for the monkeys to be hunted for food and classic medicine, Momberg stated.

Other species also inhabit the threatened forests, such as the red panda, Blyth’s Tragopan pheasant and the Takin, identified as a goat antelope.

“A comprehensive ecosystem is getting destroyed by this radical logging,” Momberg mentioned.

He stated the loggers are supplying rare woods for a furniture industry in Tengchong, in China’s Yunnan province, working with maple trees to make delicate carved tables and protected Taiwania conifers for “luxurious coffins”.

Flora and Fauna is setting up the about 250,000 hectare Imawbum national park with Myanmar’s forestry division and have made hunting-absolutely free zones with the assistance of neighborhood villages.

‘Extinction frontier’

China recorded importing 10 million cubic meters of round logs from its impoverished neighbour between 2000 and 2013‚ÄĒalmost twice Myanmar’s officially registered global export trade of 6.four million cubic meters for the period, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) campaign group.

Extinction stalks Myanmar's forests
A worker washing down next to logs piled up on a barge on the river near Yangon. 
Logging in Myanmar exploded under the former junta, as the generals tossed aside
 sustainable forestry practices in their thirst to cash in on vast natural resources
 [Credit: AFP/Ye Aung Thu]

Some 84 percent of logs imported into China went by land, despite longstanding guidelines barring exports from any other route than by means of Myanmar’s Yangon and Dawei ports, producing them “legally questionable at very best and downright illegal at worst,” the EIA mentioned.

In a recent report primarily based on Myanmar forestry documents and worldwide trade data, the EIA stated the nation was believed to have exported up to three.five times much more logs than the volumes officially recorded between 2000 and 2014.

“Such a gap is indicative of widespread criminality and corruption in Myanmar’s timber sector,” the report mentioned, estimating this vast shadow industry was worth up to $five.7 billion.

And despite the export ban, trucks loaded with logs were noticed around the Yangon port after April 1, though extra than 60 tonnes of illegal timber have been recently discovered in trucks disguised as anti-logging festival floats.

Tony Neil, forest governance advisor at Myanmar environmental group EcoDev, stated the present dry season has observed an “unprecedented” amount of timber crossing the China-Myanmar border, with quite a few hundred trucks a day generating the journey.

Demand is driven from all more than the planet, with timber “laundered” by means of ports in Malaysia and Singapore and the price of prized logs such as rosewood shooting up.

“It’s like an extinction frontier,” he said.

Author: Ye Aung Thu | Source: AFP [April 07, 2014]\