Forests around the world in Central America, South America and Asia have lost as much as 90 percent of their trees as land is cleared for agriculture, the building of roads and economic development. In fact, scientists estimate that, due to deforestation, 1 out of 5 species of lizards, reptiles and snakes could go extinct.
A 2011 United Nations report said that, since 2011, more than 3,000 square miles of Columbia’s forests have been illegally cut down to clear land for coca crops. Organized crime has been implicated in the illegal timber trade which is thought to be worth 30 to 100 billion dollars a year. As Elizabeth F. Ralph writes in Foreign Policy,
According to a recent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report, in Laos, rare rosewood logs can fetch $18,000 per cubic meter. The EIA also notes that traffickers can earn $1,700 for a high-quality mahogany tree on the Peruvian black market, and about $1,000 for a cedar tree. In 2006, illegal logging in Peru was bringing up to $72 million in profits per year. Some estimates put the yearly profits in Columbia as high as $200 million.
The EIA claims that China imports the largest amount of illegal timber. Some think that China’s growing middle class with its appetite for “fancy rosewood lounge sets” and cars with wood-adorned interiors could be driving the illegal timber trade, even as a desire for exotic wildlife and body parts of animals has led to declining numbers of endangered species such as sharks.
Anti-logging activists including Cambodian Chut Wutty and many from Brazil have lost their lives defending the forests. Here are five forests who have lost far more than half of their trees with some reduced to a mere 5 percent of what they once were.
1) East African Coastal Forests
The East African Coastal Forests extend from Southern Somalia through Kenya and Tanzania, to Southern Mozambique and include tropical dry forests as well as savannas, grasslands and wetlands. Today, only 10 percent of the forest remains.
Throughout Africa, deforestation is occurring at twice the rate as other parts of the world, the result of climate change, pollution and expanding cities. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Nigeria and Rwanda have all seen significant losses to their forests; one report says that nearly 90 percent of the original moist forests are gone in West Africa.
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