Red Gold Rush
Peru is one of the largest suppliers of big-leaf mahogany, among the world’s most vulnerable hardwoods. Requiring just the right combination of soil, moisture, and sunlight, the tree occurs from Mexico through Central America to the southern rim of the Amazon Basin. Logging has reduced mahogany to 30 percent of its historic range in South America.
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Martin Gamache and Maggie Smith, NGM Staff
Sources: Spatial Analysis Lab, University of Richmond; Chris Fagan, Upper Amazon Conservancy; James Grogan, Instituto Floresta Tropical; Instituto del Bien Común
Timber operators buy logging permits that critics claim are used as cover to cut trees illegally in adjacent lands.
Native communities make deals with loggers to cut timber on their lands, which some loggers use to access mahogany in areas where cutting trees is illegal.
Purús Conservation Complex
A 15,000-square-mile mosaic of protected lands holds remote tribes and most of Peru’s mahogany, off-limits to loggers.
Protected areas have been set aside for indigenous people living in isolation; it is illegal to log in them.