Strengthened trade controls for ramin urgently needed



Posted on 19 August 2004  | 
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - A report released today by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, shows that trade, both legal and illegal, is the driving force behind critical threats to ramin (Gonystylus spp) — a valuable tropical Asian hardwood used for a variety of products including dowels, mouldings, picture frames, venetian blinds, furniture, and billiard cues— as well as its peat-swamp habitat and the fragile ecosystem it supports.

The new report, Framing the Picture: An Assessment of Ramin Trade in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, examines the key ramin trading countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. 

According to the report, the annual volume of ramin harvested in Indonesia has declined by over 90 per cent in the last 30 years, from a peak in the 1970s of 1.5 million m3 to 131,307m3 in 2000. Similarly, the harvest in Malaysia has decreased from a peak of 600,000m3 in 1989 to 137,512m3 in 2000. This implies that ramin is becoming increasingly rare.

TRAFFIC's analysis also reveals significant discrepancies in reported export and import volumes, as well as confirming that illegally logged ramin from Indonesia continues to make its way onto world markets. 

Much of this illegal trade results from weaknesses in the implementation and enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

In 2001, Indonesia listed ramin in Appendix III of CITES, asking its fellow CITES Parties to assist with controlling illegal cargoes coming out of Indonesia. Despite this, there have been numerous allegations regarding ramin being smuggled out of Indonesia via Malaysia and Singapore, and seizures have been made in all three countries — as well as in the market destinations of the UK, US, Canada, and Italy.

The report stresses the importance of tri-lateral collaboration to strengthen national and international trade controls for this valuable Asian timber. The report's recommendations build on the outcomes of a tri-national workshop convened in April 2004 by TRAFFIC, at which participants from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore agreed to implement crucial initiatives to remedy the current situation. This included an agreement to establish a Tri-national Task Force on ramin trade law enforcement under CITES provisions.
 
“Like all organizations working for conservation and sustainable management of ramin, TRAFFIC is encouraged by the willingness of the three key Ramin trading nations to address their common problems in combating illegal trade,” said Chen Hin Keong, TRAFFIC’s Senior Forest Trade Advisor, and co-author of the report. “The sooner this proposed Tri-National Task Force commences operation, the sooner the international community will be convinced that some tangible improvements are on the way.” 
 
The report’s findings will provide valuable background for discussions at the 13th Conference of the Parties to CITES in Bangkok this coming October, at which Indonesia has proposed up-listing ramin Gonystylus spp. to Appendix II of the convention.  This proposed regulatory change would give CITES Parties additional controls, processes and tools to assist the management of ramin resources, and would support ongoing national and regional efforts, including the work of the proposed Ramin Task Force. 
 
The recent security agreement between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, largely focused on curbing piracy in the Straits of Malacca — some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world — has distinct parallels with what the Task Force would be examining. The deterrent effect of these patrols has already shown that tri-lateral law enforcement can be done, and sets a real precedent for how the Ramin Task Force can be implemented.
 
“By clarifying procedures and sharing relevant ramin-related information between three key trading partners, illegal trade could be minimised, if not eliminated, to demonstrate to other CITES Parties that regional solutions are indeed possible,” said Chen Hin Keong.  
 
For further information:
Chen Hin Keong
Senior Forest Trade Advisor, TRAFFIC
Tel: +60 12 234 0890
E-mail: hkchen@pc.jaring.my
 
Maija Sirola
Communications Coordinator, TRAFFIC
Tel: +44 1223 277427
E-mail: maija.sirola@trafficint.org 
 
Notes:
• CITES, The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, regulates international trade in more than 30,000 species of wild animals and plants. The Convention is currently applied in 166 nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. 
 
•  Most species regulated by CITES are listed in Appendix II, which groups together species which are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but which may become so unless trade is closely controlled. Those plants and animals categorized in Appendix II may be traded legally, provided valid permits accompany shipments.
 
Appendix III is a list of species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation. International trade in specimens of species listed in this Appendix is allowed only on presentation of the appropriate permits or certificates. 

• TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. It works in cooperation with the CITES Secretariat. TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN–The World Conservation Union.
 
• TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s work on ramin over the past 18 months has been generously supported by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Environment Fund.
Ramin timber smuggled from Indonesia, following a seizure by customs in Port Kelang, Peninsular Malaysia, 2003.
© TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Enlarge

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