Heartwood of Red Sanders is in demand in the domestic and international markets for making furniture, handicrafts and musical instruments
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) recorded 28 incidents of confiscation and seizure of more than 19,049 tonnes of Red Sanders logs. These had been exported from India between 2016 and 2020 after being illegally extracted from the wild, according to a new factsheet.
Red Sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus), also called Red Sandalwood, is a species found in the southern tropical dry deciduous forest of Andhra Pradesh (AP). The tree reaches an average height of 10 to 15 metres.
With 53.3 per cent of logs being shipped to China, it is the biggest importer of these illegally harvested logs of Red Sanders, noted the document released by TRAFFIC and WWF-India on February 2, 2023.
The species is listed as ‘Endangered’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and falls in Appendix II of CITES. In India, it has been enlisted under Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The heartwood of Red Sanders is in demand in the domestic and international markets for making furniture, handicrafts and musical instruments in China and Japan. The red dye obtained from the wood is used as a colouring agent in the textiles, medicine and food industries.
“Red Sanders is reported to be one of India’s most exploited tree species and is under severe pressure from illegal logging and harvesting. Rampant illegal logging has been reported across its range state,” said Merwyn Fernandes, coordinator of TRAFFIC’s India Office.
Under the foreign trade policy of India, the import of Red Sanders is prohibited, while export is restricted.
China remains the largest importer with more than 13,618 tonnes of the products, followed by Hong Kong at 5,215 tonnes and Singapore at 216 tonnes, according to the factsheet.
“India reported an export of more than 19,049 tonnes of logs. In comparison, the importing countries reported about 4,610 tonnes of logs, 127 tonnes of sawn wood, 20 tonnes of transformed wood and 980 kg of wood products, clearly indicating a discrepancy in reporting of Red Sander trade,” read the factsheet.
Rampant illegal logging and smuggling of trees have been reported in Chittoor, YSR Kadappa, Nellore and Kurnool districts, according to the AP Forest Department.
To curb this illegal logging of the endangered species, the AP Forest Department formed a Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force in 2014, which has made several seizures of the wood.
Dedicated posts in the Police Department, District Special Parties, Andhra Pradesh Special Police Platoons and Forest Department were sanctioned along with other administrative and ministerial posts to control the smuggling of Red Sanders. Since its inception, the Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force has made numerous seizures of Red Sanders in the state.
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