Fight to Stop Sale of Endangered Species Continues

Question: what’s contributing to climate change, supporting human rights abuses and threatening species with extinction?

Answer: the sale of Kwila in Aotearoa. But we can stop it.

Kwila is an endangered tree found mainly in West Papua and Papua New Guinea. In New Zealand you’ll find Kwila underneath your feet on hot sunny days, as this threatened species is sold as decking materials and outdoor furniture.

Why? Well, there’s currently no government regulation on the sale of illegally logged timber in New Zealand, even though legislation aiming to halt this devastating practice was recently introduced in the United States and European Union.

Rainforest advocate groups like Rainforest Action focus on Kwila because it makes up 80% of illegally-sourced imported wood products. In the past campaigners have successfully convinced stores such as Harvey Norman and BBQ Warehouse to stop selling Kwila timber products. TradeMe recently moved to end sales of illegally logged Kwila on their site.

On Saturday the 2nd of October protestors drew attention to sales of Kwila at Bunnings Warehouse in a protest organised by Rainforest Action. Between 25-30 people picketed noisily outside the Tory street store in the Wellington CBD. This protest is the first in Rainforest Action’s Summer 2011 campaign, aiming to raise awareness on issues associated with rainforest destruction.

The decision to continue selling Kwila is a decision to continue aiding and abetting in the destruction of the Papuan rainforest. Kwila is estimated to completely disappear from the planet in 35 years if logging persists at current rates. And it’s not just Kwila that’s at risk; habitat loss means vulnerable bird and mammal species are also threatened with extinction. On a global scale, logging contributes to the climate crisis, with tropical deforestation being the single largest human-induced source of carbon emissions.

The importation of Kwila is obviously an eco-disaster, but the negative effects spread and even wider net. A huge amount of New Zealand-bound Kwila is exported from West Papua, an independence-seeking province of Indonesia suffering through a process of brutal colonization. Logging has meant that indigenous forest-dwelling West Papuans have had lands and resources stolen from them, while human rights organizations have recorded the torture and imprisonment of locals opposing the logging.

Back at home, the importation of Kwila is costing Aotearoa. In 2007 the New Zealand government estimated that illegal logging creates a $266 million loss in annual forestry sector revenue. Retailers stocking Kwila products are therefore threatening more than the Papuan rainforests and their inhabitants; they are also threatening the income and jobs of New Zealanders.

Kwila logging is unnecessary, unsustainable and unjust. To get involved with the fight to stop Kwila sales, check out:

-Liz Willoughby Martin


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