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Date: Sat, 11 Jul 98 11:46:00 CDT
From: Mark Graffis <ab758@virgin.usvi.net>
Article: 38815
Message-ID: <bulk.7506.19980712121647@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Posted to the web: July 09, 1998

Kenya's Forests Carved Up

From Environment News Service, 9 July 1998

LONDON, UK, July 9, 1998 (ENS) - Wood used in distinctive carvings sold to tourists in Kenya is severely depleted in the wild, and the forests that sustain an important cottage industry are at risk. Kenya's woodcarving industry employs 60,000 carvers and supports over 300,000 people.

At an international meeting of the People and Plants initiative Wednesday at Kew, a joint programme by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), UNESCO and the Royal Botanic Gardens to address the global threats facing plants and trees, the groups urged tourists and importers to buy "good wood" carvings from Kenya to reduce pressure on over-exploited tree species.

By buying "good wood" species such as neem (Azadirachta indica), jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosiifolis) and mango (Mangifera indica), taken from well managed sources, tourists and importers can help protect Kenya's forests.

The two main woodcarving centres at Mombasa and Malindi use 20,800 wild "muhugu" mahogany (Brachlaena huillensis) trees each year, felled from some of the last remaining forests on the Kenyan coast.

These forests are home to some of Kenya's most endangered birds, mammals and reptiles, many of which are now at risk due to over-exploitation for the woodcarving trade.

Species threatened include the golden-rumped elephant-shrew, the Sokoke scops owl and the blue tree lizard. A study by the East African Natural History Society found that 4,200 elephant shrews lose their homes each year due to felling for the woodcarving trade.

Begun by a Kenyan who learned the art of woodcarving in the British Army during the First World War, Kenya's woodcarving industry now has an export value of US$20 million, with the majority of carvings sent to Europe, the United States, Canada and Japan.

Many of the 700,000 tourists that visit Kenya each year also buy the carvings, providing a valuable source of income for the local communities.

The People and Plants initiative, with the financial support of Britain's Department for International Development and the National Lottery Charities Board has been promoting the use of "good wood" species.

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