Consumers Urged to Buy 'Good Wood' CarvingsLondon - The conservation organisation WWF today urged tourists and importers to buy 'good wood' carvings from Kenya in order to reduce pressure on over-exploited tree species. The call was made at an international meeting of the People and Plants initiative, a joint programme by WWF, UNESCO and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew to address the global threats facing plants and trees.
Researchers have found that nearly all tree species used for carvings have now been severely depleted in the wild, threatening the future of one of Kenya's most successful cottage industries. By buying 'good wood' species such as neem (Azadirachta indica), jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosiifolis) and mango (Mangifera indica), which is taken from well managed sources, tourists and importers can help protect Kenya's forests and ensure the survival of a woodcarving industry which employs 60,000 carvers and supports over 300,000 people.
Begun by a Kenyan who learned the art of woodcarving while serving in the British Army during the First World War, the woodcarving industry now has an export value of US$20 million, with the majority of carvings sent to Europe, the United States, Canada and Japan. Many of the 700,000 tourists that visit Kenya each year also buy the carvings, providing a valuable source of income for the local communities.
The two main woodcarving centres at Mombasa and Malindi use 20,800 wild 'muhugu' mahogany (Brachlaena huillensis) trees each year, felled from some of the last remaining forests on the Kenyan coast. These forests are arks for some of Kenya's most endangered birds, mammals and reptiles, many of which are now at risk due to over-exploitation for the woodcarving trade. Species threatened include the golden-rumped elephant-shrew, the Sokoke scops owl and the blue tree lizard. A study by the East African Natural History Society found that 4200 elephant shrews lose their homes each year due to felling for the trade.
The People and Plants initiative, with the financial support of Britain's Department for International Development (DfID) and the National Lottery Charities Board (NCLB) has been promoting the use of 'good wood' species. As part of this campaign WWF is now asking tourists and importers to play their part.
For further information, please contact Ed Matthew - WWF-UK Media Officer : Tel - +44 1483 412 379 or Mobile - +44 468 867 274.