We would be proud to be involved with non-governmental certification schemes but the worry is that because most of the special woods that we carry are sold in such small quantities that they may never see an inspection due to the impracticality of doing so much work for so little trade.
So, for those of you who are interested, here are a few examples of how some of my shippers work. I offer this information to emphasize some of huge variety of circumstances in which timber can be sourced and to help put many of these glib sound bites that we hear in the media into perspective.
Firstly here is a letter from my shipper of Sonokeling rosewood and macassar ebony exactly as he has written it to me:
"Rosewood – all trees are cut manually, using power chain saws only. There is virtually no other mechanisation, which essentially maintains the entire forest. The trees themselves are fairly old, the younger trees are left untouched. This means in practice maybe 1 tree in 50 or 60 is suitable for cutting. The villagers that live in these forests depend upon these and other trees for their livelihood, and therefore take very good care of the forest, making sure other species are left untouched, and even for the rosewood, only old and mature trees cut, everything else is preserved for their future generations.
"All the rosewood comes from Java. The bad story of the environment is in the islands of Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sumatra, basically where there has been a lot of commercial logging by huge forestry companies, that bring in tons of equipment, and pretty much destroy thousands of hectares of forest every year. This is more for commercial species like Merbau, Meranti, Bangkiai etc, which are in high demand for construction, plywood and other commercial uses.
"Because of the nature of Rosewood trees, which are basically growing among a whole bunch of other species, it is not feasible for these large log companies to come in and do logging, and this ensures that the forests will not be destroyed.
"Macassar is a very well protected species by the government , and there are huge taxes on every cubic meter taken out of the forest. And also the amounts taken out are subject to strict supervision.
"Like rosewood, the local population tends to look after these trees. . Contrary to popular belief there are still a lot of macassar ebony forests forests around, most of them however are totally inaccessible, either very high up in steep rocky mountains, or deep in the valleys in between, which means commercial logging is impossible. This of course protects the species.
"Ebony is also logged strictly by hand, using chain saws, after which it is carried out of the forests either by teams of men or using animals. Trucks etc. cannot be used in this terrain. So this naturally limits how much can actually be taken out. Add the weather factor (when it rains, as it does frequently), nothing can be done.
"Both of these species are fairly well looked after, as people can appreciate their rarity even here, and the local people depend on them for their lifestyle."
Rainforest in Guatemala
after felling operations
Queensland Australia - Rainforest view of Daintree river