Endangered tigers and their remaining forest are under seige from illegal loggers in the Russian Far East, according to a report released yesterday by the World Wildlife Fund-Russia. Nikolay Shmatkov, a forest policy director, said that the organized crime rings that log the forests are destroying the last hope of survival for the remaining Amur tigers as well as the livelihoods of thousands of local Russian and indigenous villagers.
The newly released WWF investigation showed that, in 2010, over half of the Mongolian oaks shipped out of Russia and into neighboring China were cut down illegally. In some years, such as 2007 and 2008, four times as many Mongolian oaks were cut and harvested as the law allows.
Yet there is almost no prosecution for the bold crimes. In fact, in 2011, in one Russian province, only 16 percent of illegal logging cases were ever brought to trial, the lowest number in a decade.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, illegal logging is a lucrative business. A World Bank report in 2012 said that it was worth $15 billion to organized crime syndicates that have looted forests as far apart as Madagascar, Africa, and Indonesia to satisfy the demands of United States, European, and now Chinese consumers who seek expensive hardwoods for flooring and furniture.
A BBC report said that more than a third of all Russian logs are stolen and smuggled into China by organized crime rings. The Russian Far East forest, which they called the largest forest on the planet, is predicted to be completely logged within 30 years.
After a series of devastating floods in 1998, China banned logging of its own forests and started a program of reforestation. However, despite spending at least $31 billion on the project, the reality is that the most valuable hardwood trees simply don’t grow that fast. Fifteen years later, China can meet less than 40 percent of its demand by logging its own forests.
As a result, the organized crime rings can step in to import the illegally logged wood, confident that Chinese officials will look the other way.
There are between 350 to 450 Amur tigers remaining in the wild — 95 percent of them in the Russian Far East forests described in the new report. The illegal logging there guarantees that the endangered tigers remain at high risk for extinction.
[Amur tiger photo by Dave Pape via Wikipedia Commons and Wikipedia Picture of the Day]