The species was classified as ‘near threatened’ in 2018
Red Sanders (Red Sandalwood) has fallen back into the ‘endangered’ category in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The species, Pterocarpus santalinus, is an Indian endemic tree species, with a restricted geographical range in the Eastern Ghats.
The species is endemic to a distinct tract of forests in Andhra Pradesh. It was classified as ‘near threatened’ in 2018 and has now joined the ‘endangered’ list once again in 2021.
It was a moment of celebration when the species was lifted off from the endangered category for the first time since 1997.
The latest IUCN assessment stated: “Over the last three generations, the species has experienced a population decline of 50-80 per cent. It is assessed as Endangered”.
The IUCN maintains a list — called the Red List — of flora and fauna species and categorises them based on their conservation status.
The status ranges from ‘least concern’ for the species that are abundant in numbers to ‘extinct’ for those that have completely disappeared from the planet. Species that come under ‘critically endangered’, ‘endangered’ and ‘vulnerable’ categories are considered threatened, according to the IUCN categorisation.
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) tweeted out the information January 8, 2022, stating that the species found in Chittoor, Kadapa, Nandhyal, Nellore, Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh has been assessed as ‘endangered’
“The species is dwindling in its natural habitat due to over-exploitation. It has been assessed as an #Endangered as per the IUCN criteria and also scheduled in appendix II of CITES and Wildlife Protection Act,” read MoEFCC’s tweet.
The IUCN’s Red List summary states that while the species retained its geographical area despite harvesting since the 16th century, its population this time saw a sharp decline.
“The over-harvest of the species has left the population structure skewed, with trees of harvestable size and maturity being scarce and making up less than 5 per cent of the trees remaining in the wild,” stated the summary.
It is listed under Appendix II of CITES and is banned from international trade. The harvest of the tree is also restricted at the state level, but despite this illegal trade continues.
“However, there is still an illegal harvest and trade of the species to meet the global demand. This is evidenced by the large volume of timber and Red Sanders products seized by authorities at all stages of the illegal supply,” reads Red List’s summary on Red Sanders.
The slow growth of the species and continued harvesting leaves no time for the species to recover naturally. Cattle grazing and invasive species also threaten the species.
The summary added that Red Sanders smuggling continues despite the physical deterrents and patrols in place in Andhra Pradesh, as well as international, national and state-level laws preventing the cutting and transport of species.
It further advises that conservation efforts need to be strengthened and developed to protect the species.
In 2019, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, an agency of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, on February 18, 2019, revised its export policy to permit the export of red sander timber, if it is obtained from cultivated land, Down To Earth had reported then.
Red Sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus) known for their rich hue and therapeutic properties, are high in demand across Asia, particularly in China and Japan, for use in cosmetics and medicinal products as well as for making furniture, woodcraft and musical instruments.
Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that a tonne of Red Sanders costs anything between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore in the international market.
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