Mahogany Trade Threatens Uncontacted Tribes

Mahogany loggers are “plundering” indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation in Peru’s southeastern Amazon, despite national and international agreements against the practice.

The Upper Amazon Conservancy, which works to protect the biological and cultural diversity of Peru’s southeastern Amazon basin, observed illegal mahogany logging between March 2009 to April 2009 in the Murunahua Territorial Reserve for Indigenous People in Voluntary Isolation, mainly along the Yurua and Mapuya Rivers.

Using river patrols and overflights with Pronaturaleza, Frankfurt Zoological Society and Peru´s protected areas agency, SERNANP, the Conservancy said in a recent report that it observed logging camps and a vast transportation network for logging, in addition to rafts of “recently cut mahogany boards.”

Illegally felled mahogany, such that cut within nature reserves, indigenous territories or national parks, is prohibited by Peru’s free trade agreement with the United States.

But 80 percent of Peru’s mahogany is exported to the United States and a corrupt network of traders and officials help the wood leave the country with seemingly proper certification that it was legally cut.

“These permits provide the timber companies with ´proof´ that the wood was legally cut in compliance with approved management plans—not from protected areas or unregistered lands,” said the report. “Thus when the wood is finally trucked to Lima, it contains export documentation required by the United States and other international markets.”

Director of indigenous organization Survival International, Stephen Corry, said: “It would be a tragedy for US citizens to continue buying Peruvian mahogany if it puts the survival of uncontacted Indians at risk.”

The area is home to one of the world´s highest concentration of uncontacted tribes.

Peru’s government, which has already concessioned off about 70 percent of its Amazon basin to oil and gas companies, made the Murunahua Reserve off limits because the extractive industry would threaten uncontacted indigenous groups there.

 

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