The Chinese demand for rosewood furniture is decimating a rare, slow-growing species of African tree, according to Quartz Africa.
The Chinese have been crafting beautiful furniture for thousands of years. They prefer using hongmu, or “red wood,” a dense, fragrant, and most importantly, hardy wood that allows Chinese craftsmen to use joinery and doweling instead of glue and nails. The wood is turned into elaborate carvings and beautiful furniture.
Once limited to the Chinese elite, hongmu furniture is now lusted after by China’s nouveau riche, with individual pieces fetching $1 million or more.
Chinese demand for wood increased 300 percent from 2000 to 2011, in part due to the growth in China’s construction industry and a 474 percent increase in per capita GDP allowing more Chinese hotels, deluxe apartments and upper-class consumers to quench their thirst for rare furniture products.
Africa’s Mukula tree in the line of fire
On the other side of this tale are the forests in Africa and southeast Asia where these hardwoods, more commonly known as rosewood, come from. Of the 33 woods classified as rosewood in China, 16 are endangered or approaching that point.
Rosewood substitutes are also starting to come under pressure. Of these, the most threatened may be the Mukula tree, a slow-growing hardwood unique to southern and central Africa.
There are no official statistics on how many Mukula trees have been felled, but demand for the wood is so high that Zambia banned exports of the wood for a time.
“As the most influential timber market in the world, China can and should support African countries’ efforts to tackle the illegal logging and timber trade,” said Wenjing Pan, Greenpeace’s senior global campaigner.
Source: Capricorn Review