Illegal logging operation in Indonesia feeds China’s appetite for wood

A three-year investigation of some of the last remaining intact tropical forests in the Asia-Pacific region has revealed an enormous international smuggling ring, possibly the largest in the world involving a single type of wood, says a report from two enviro groups. In a billion-dollar-a-year operation, the criminals have been logging merbau trees — used mainly for hardwood flooring — from Indonesia’s Papua province at a rate of more than 10 million cubic feet per month, according to the report. Despite an Indonesian government ban on the export of logs, “[t]here’s no denying that military officers are involved in illegal logging,” said Muhammad Yayat Alfianto of Telapak, one the groups that worked on the report. By paying bribes totaling some $200,000 per shipment, the loggers were able to transport the trees to a harbor in eastern China, activists say. Ever-ravenous China has become the world’s largest consumer of illegal timber, according to the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency.