The UK is contributing to an "epidemic” of illegal logging that’s seriously endangering Russian forests and rare tigers. And it could be down to the furniture we buy.
Our WWF colleagues in Russia have published research to show that the manufacture of furniture made from illegally logged wood - some of which ends up in the UK - is pushing some of their forests to the brink of destruction.
And that’s threatening the survival of the already-endangered Amur tiger (also known as the Siberian tiger), and the Himalayan bear, as well and affecting people in indigenous communities in Far Eastern Russia.
Our Russian colleagues report that illegal logging has reached “epidemic proportions” in the Ussuri Taiga, with the timber from the area's forests mainly being used to supply furniture and flooring manufacturers across the border in China.
Illegal logging is destroying and degrading vital habitat for Amur tigers and their prey. Scientists estimate there are only around 450 Amur tigers left in the wild.
Over-harvesting limits the supply of pine nuts and acorns - a main food source for tigers’ prey. As timber supplies dwindle, ecologically sensitive forests like wildlife reserves are increasingly threatened too.
Russia’s timber industry has become seriously criminalised. With minimal resources available for law enforcement, illegal loggers have been able to plunder valuable stocks of oak, ash, elm and linden. From 2004–2011, between two and four times more oak timber was cut down and export to China than legally permitted.
The products made from this illegal wood end up in global markets. The UK is the largest trader in timber and wood products from China.
The new EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), introduced in March 2013, is intended to make companies accountable for the timber and wood products they buy and use. But our research shows that just 47 of the 150 categories of timber-based products are within the scope of the EUTR.
That’s why EU companies need to be absolutely sure of the origin and traceability of their wood products.
As our forest campaigner Beatrix Richards explains: “There’s a significant risk that UK companies and consumers buying furniture and flooring could be unwittingly contributing to the problem. If companies aren’t getting their wood products from legal and responsible sources, they risk losing faith with their customers and contributing to the destruction of important forest habitat.”