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Precious Tanzania forest falling to armed illegal loggers

Back in August 2011 we wrote about alarming forest figures coming out of Tanzania. We wrote back then:

  • At current rates, no high value timber will be left in Tanzania’s coastal forest in 37 years.
  • 96% of the timber harvest in the country was illegal.
  • The government of Tanzania lost $53 million in revenue from illegal logging in 2005.

If anything positive has happened since we reported on this in 2011, it’s that, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, Tanzania’s losses form illegal timber operations have dropped from $53M to $13.5M. This astonishing 75% drop in illegal timber activity is remarkable considering that no new laws or resources have been allocated to combat the illegal timber trade.

Reuters

Armed illegal loggers devastate Tanzania’s coastal forest

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A surge in illegal logging is devastating native forests in coastal Tanzania’s Rufiji district, despite efforts by authorities to curb forest losses, officials said.

Hundreds of tonnes of trees are being smuggled out of the district each month by timber traders to feed a lucrative construction market and furniture industries within the country and abroad, said district forest officials.Rufiji District in Tanzania is only 175kms from the country's capital, Dar es Salaam.

District records show loggers, who often invade forests at night, are targeting indigenous tree species, notably mninga, and mpodo, which are now on the verge of local extinction due to high demand for their wood.

“The loggers seem to be very well organized and armed. Unfortunately our local forest guards do not have the capacity to confront them,” said Shamte Mahawa Mangwi, village executive officer in Rufiji.

Forests play a critical role in the fight against global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can hold down global temperature increases.

An assessment conducted by the Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) in November said that illegal logging in the Rufiji forests is fueled by a growing demand for wood products and charcoal making as well as the district’s lack of effective strategies for monitoring forests.

Nurdeen Babu, a Rufiji district commissioner who doubles as chairman of the forest harvesting committee, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that illegal harvesting of logs in the district threatens the survival of natural forests, but said the government has taken measures to combat the problem.

Read the whole story here.



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