TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: Imperiled Riches—Threatened Rainforests

Case Study: Mahogany

June 1, 1999

Mahogany has long been logged from tropical America to fill the demand for tropical wood products like decorative paneling and furniture. The species has been logged so extensively that it is now endanger of extinction. The logging of mahogany, like other large tropical trees, is difficult, because trees are widely dispersed. In addition, the process of taking out a single mahogany tree results in the destruction of an average of 28 other trees and 3000 square feet of forest damage due to lianas connected to other trees and clumsy use of machinery. Recently Brazil banned the felling of mahogany, but the effect of this action is controversial since most mahogany is illegally harvested in from areas in Brazil and Bolivia set aside for Indigenous peoples where mahogany still grows. It is estimated that 80% of the trade in Mahogany is illegal. However, just a week after Brazilian president Cardoso signed the decree, the Brazilian press uncovered evidence of bribes (US$5000 per month per official) to continue with the logging practice.

Most environmental groups say that the best way to end the mahogany trade is to ban importation of the wood into major consumer countries like the United Sates and Japan. Consumption of mahogany in the UK has plummeted since an aggressive Friends of the Earth campaign against its use. In 1992, the US imported 45,775 cubic meters (1,616,315 cubic feet) of mahogany, or about 12,600 mahogany trees.

Continued: Economic Restructuring

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