| FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: || |
CONTACT: Adam Roberts, Animal Welfare Institute
2255-3767 Room 1104 (Bangkok)
07-126-1466 (Bangkok mobile)
| October 8, 2004 || |
Will Travers, Born Free Foundation
2255-3767 Room 1103 (Bangkok)
01-302-5974 (Bangkok mobile)
Bangkok, Thailand—Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meeting here today, unanimously agreed to new controls over the international trade in ramin, a tropical hardwood found in Southeast Asia. "Today's decision is a victory both for ramin and for southeast Asia's unique and priceless forests," said Carroll Muffett, Director of International Programs for Defenders of Wildlife, a wildlife conservation organization based in Washington, DC.
Ramin has declined dramatically and is commercially extinct throughout much of its former range. The species (Gonystylus spp.), proposed for protection by Indonesia, will be listed on Appendix II of CITES, thus requiring appropriate export permits for trade. Exporting nations will also have to conclude that the trade will not prove detrimental to the species in the wild.
"Illegal logging of tropical forests is among the most serious threats facing the global environment—destroying forests, threatening wildlife, and bringing violence and social unrest to indigenous peoples," Muffett noted. "Illegal logging has made consumers in the United States and Europe unwitting accomplices in the devastation of Indonesia's forests. The high price of ramin on international markets, where a cubic meter can fetch up to $1,000, has been driving the destruction of rainforest habitats for far too long. Listing ramin under CITES is a critical step toward controlling the illegal trade in this species.'
The listing is also vitally important for the protection of forest-dwelling animals, including threatened and endangered species, whose habitat is destroyed by illegal loggers. Critically endangered orangutans are at particular risk, and today's listing offers some hope for the survival of the species.
A new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), The Ramin Racket, has exposed how ramin is being illegally logged in Indonesian National Parks and laundered through neighboring countries, including Malaysia. The wood eventually reaches international markets in the form of products such as pool cues and picture frames. "More illegal ramin is currently being traded than legal wood," said Sam Lawson, EIA Forest Investigator. "These new CITES measures should help stop this destructive trade - but they will only work if Parties make a serious commitment to enforce the listing," he added.
Gonystylus spp. is distributed throughout a number of range states including Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Solomon Islands.
The last significant stands of commercially traded species are thought to be limited to Indonesia and Malaysia.
15 ramin species are categorized as Vulnerable (IUCN 2003); a 1997 survey showed that populations throughout Indonesia have considerably declined; all populations are believed to be at very low level.
Ramin is threatened by rampant illegal logging and over-exploitation to supply international markets, as well as by forest degradation.
Ramin is highly vulnerable to overexploitation, regenerates poorly and has never been successfully grown in plantations; illegal harvest practices destroy habitat, making population regeneration unlikely; ramin forests are also important habitat for orangutans and other endangered species.
Illegal trade is a serious threat to ramin species; the current CITES Appendix III listing has proved of limited benefit, but poor enforcement and implementation by some countries has reduced its effectiveness.