Rare trees threatened by demand for aromatic oils

Confiscated Agarwood and Poaching Tools at Khao Yai

Wildlife poachers target Khao Yai’s rare plants as well as animals. Aquilaria crassna (Thymelaeaceae), an increasingly rare tropical evergreen tree native to Southeast Asian forests, for example, is highly sought after for its valuable aromatic wood (Agarwood).

In January and February, Khao Yai park rangers confiscated 50kg of Agarwood, 5 axes, 4 saws and 6 chisels. Rangers can often only gather photographic evidence of Agarwood poaching after it has occured.

Stump of felled tree at Khao Yai National Park Shaved tree at Khao Yai National Park

Wood is chopped out of living trees and illegally removed from the park, usually to be distilled and exported to East Asian and Middle Eastern markets to supply demand for derivative aromatic, medicinal and religious products. The ability of surviving trees to grow and reproduce is dramatically reduced.

A scientific study of Aquilaria crassna tree populations carried out in Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park and published in 2008, concluded that the increase in tree mortality and decrease in sapling growth rate caused by Agarwood poaching could completely wipe out the Aquilaria crassna species in some areas within the next 50 years.

Aquilaria crassna is protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.

FREELAND is concerned that an Agarwood poaching and distillation industry may have sprung up around Khao Yai National Park to take advantage of remaining Agarwood sources within the reserve.

FREELAND is helping to train forest rangers to better protect Khao Yai and helping former poachers from nearby villages support their families legally and sustainably through organic agriculture projects. Please support our efforts.

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