Illegal Logging in Papua and China’s Massive Timber Theft
Asia has already lost 95% of its frontier forests. Most of what remains are confined to the Indonesian archipelago, and the province of Papua in Indonesia is home to the largest tract. This report exposes how these last precious forests are being illegally felled and sold off wholesale to China, which is now the largest consumer of stolen timber in the world. One timber species – Merbau, a luxurious dark hardwood – is the main target of the illegal loggers in Papua. In undercover meetings with illegal loggers, traders and timber buyers, EIA/Telapak have exposed the shocking scale of the billion-dollar Merbau trad and laid bare the details.
The report exposes for the first time the complex web of middlemen and financiers from across the region responsible for masterminding the theft of Indonesia’s forests. From the millionaire timber barons in Jakarta and the officials on their payrolls, the story traces the role of multinational companies in Malaysia, brokers in Singapore and log dealers in Hong Kong. It reveals how in a just a few short years, a small anchorage in eastern China has been transformed into the largest tropical log trading port in the world, while a nearby town has become a global centre for wood flooring manufacture, with 500 huge factories consuming one merbau tree every minute of the very working day. Much of this flooring finds its way to consuming countries, including the USA and UK. Every month, enough stolen merbau is shipped from Papua to produce flooring worth in excess of $600 million at western retail prices. For every dollar spent on luxurious merbau flooring in the west, local forest dwellers receive less than half a cent. Meanwhile, forest loss in Indonesia is accelerating, with an area the size of Switzerland lost every year.