Thap Lan National Park – Epicenter in the War on Rosewood Poaching in Asia
Thap Lan National Park forms the center of Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of more than 2,300 square miles, and one of the only intact forested wildlife habitats you can see from space in central Thailand.
The national park has become a war zone, laid siege by gangs of armed criminals in search of rosewood, which fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars on the international black market. It is estimated over 100 Cambodian poachers have been killed in armed conflicts with Thai rangers in 2015.
Armed with HK-33 assault rifles and satellite communications equipment, rangers face poachers touting AK-47’s who have killed about 50 Thai park rangers in the past four years.
Siam rosewood, Dalbergia cochinchinensis, is a rare forest hardwood with a distinctive red-hued heart. For centuries rosewood has been valued in China for the manufacture of religious statues and intricately carved 'Hongmu' furniture, with a single chair selling for $1 million. Officials say one cubic meter of Siamese Rosewood is sold to furniture makers for up to $90,000.
While mahogany and teak were wiped out nearly twenty years ago, rosewood has now become the most in demand hardwood for the lucrative Chinese market.
The forests of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam have been virtually stripped of any rosewood trees and now organized crime syndicates are focusing on Thailand's forests, particularly Thap Lan National Park.
Thailand's Siamese rosewood forests could be extinct within a decade because of illegal logging. In just five years, poaching of the rare hardwood has increased 850 percent, driven by an insatiable demand for luxury furniture in China.
Not only do poachers illegally harvest large volumes of wood which has serious impacts on the forest ecosystem, they also hunt and kill other species of wildlife they come across in the forest, such as hornbills, bear and deer for food and trade.
In order to succeed to achieve ‘No Kill, No Cut’ in Thap Lan National Forests, advanced surveillance systems and SMART ranger patrols are needed, as well as improving the working conditions for rangers, and working informant networks.
“The international community does not know what is going on in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai World Heritage Site. We need to seek solutions and raise awareness. We need to write papers, produce documentaries, and bring the issue to the attention of the media, in order to put pressure on the market,” said Prof Kumagai, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Regional Vice-Chair for East Asia.
To learn more about Global Conservation’s work in Thap Lan National Park, see here.
To enable 'No Kill, No Cut' protection for endangered national parks and world heritage sites with Global Park Defense