By Marion V. Ali
A study has revealed that almost $40 million worth of mahogany and cedar has been illegally extracted from the Chiquibul forest, and that about half of that was taken between 2010 and 2012.
Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) says illegal logging is one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss in the Chiquibul forest. The group made the assessment by calculating how many square feet of lumber was cut and then put a value to it. The breakdown shows that an estimated total of 2,832,195.22 board feet of cedar was extracted. This amounts to a value of US $4,248,293.00; while an estimated 2,971,343.39 board feet of mahogany with an economic value of US $ 5,199,851.00 was illegally taken.
Overall, a total of 8,725,833 board feet of lumber has been illegally extracted from the Chiquibul forest, having an estimated monetary value of US $18,830,387.00.
FCD says Guatemalan loggers primarily target mahogany and cedar because they have a high market value and demand.
Meanwhile, another FCD study, conducted through support from the EU FAO FLEGT Program and PACT, reveals that the area impacted by the illegal logging has shown an increase of 2.5 times from 2010 to 2015 and appears to have reached its furthest in 2014.
The present size of the areas impacted by the illegal activity measures 45,567 hectares, which is 4.4 times the size of the Caracol Archaeological Reserve.
FCD says that from May 2014 to May 2015, there was a 3.3 percent increase in illegal logging, but that no new activity has been reported in the forest since September of 2014. However, FCD has not ruled out that the area is free of illegal logging.
FCD attributes the cessation of illegal logging in the Chiquibul after last September to a number of factors, including that the distance to travel further into Belizean territory makes it more difficult for illegal loggers to evade patrols. FCD also now has a bigger group of rangers to patrol the forest.