GPS Tracks Timber Smugglers

With the help of GPS trackers, Greenpeace was able to uncover a secret that takes place deep in the Amazon. During daytime, numerous large trucks enter the rain forest empty, but at nighttime, they exit loaded with logs.

Apparently, these logging trucks drive back and forth between illegal logging sites and sawmills that sell logs to the U.S. and Europe. Greenpeace members caught log laundering in action as the illegal logs were transported to sawmill storage and were moved out as saw lumber complete with official documents to cover their tracks.

GPS Trackers Help Catch Illegal Timber Smugglers

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Timber Smugglers Caught

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Using forestry permit maps and 3G GPS monitoring technology such as Trackimo, the environmental group’s assessment is that, in Par state, the biggest timber producer and exporting state in Brazil, about 78 percent of logging activities are done illegally. Earlier this year, Greenpeace revealed how unauthorized logs are being laundered with ease in Brazil because of their weak timber control system.

The research submitted revealed that using real-time GPS technology, they were able to discover how illegal logs are transferred from the shadows to the marketplace.

Upon checking the properties that sawmills claimed the timber came from, Greenpeace noticed once again the familiar scams that loggers used to conceal their illegal business. In some instances, sawmills would declare that their thousands cubic meters supplies of timber originated from a specific area, but the satellite imagery tells otherwise, that no logging activities were done on those areas.

Greenpeace also noticed the forest estates record the number of rare and high-valued type like those with rates five times higher than what are usually found in the area. This kind of exaggeration is an indication of deception done by property owners to the authorities just so they could be given permits to conceal their illegitimate timber collected from other places.

The Odani sawmill, whose logging permit was revoked by the Brazilian authorities, was one of the companies where the under surveillance logging trucks deliver supplies up to four times a day. This is the same sawmill that regularly supplies Ipezai, a timber exporter in Brazil. Ipezai was reported to have recently shipped quality timber to US companies Timber Brokerage InternationalSabra International, the sister companies East Teak Fine Hardwoods and Thompson Mahogany.

The Lacey Act in the US prohibits the selling of illegal timber and requires firms to make sure that the timber traded is legal. Even with proper and official documentation, it’s not a guarantee that the timber purchased from Brazil is legal, considering the high possibility of illegality and flaws in their logging rules that make it easy for companies to launder crimes.

Knowing all these, US importing from Brazil needs to see beyond documentation if they want to make sure that they’re not violating the law and indirectly encouraging forest crime.



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Amanda Thomas