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Volunteers Help Protect Rainforests
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Chinese Greenpeace volunteers were back home in Beijing yesterday, after two months in the steamy rainforests of Papua New Guinea.


And the four volunteers wasted no time in calling for an immediate boycott of the illegal logging trade, which is devastating the largest intact rainforest in the Asia Pacific region.


The volunteers have been working with local tribesmen to protect part of the Paradise Forests, which are spread across Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.


Over the past two months they have helped six tribes look after 34,000 hectares of rainforest.


"It has a kind of inarticulate beauty," Xiao Wei, lead singer of the rock band "Catcher in the Rye" said of his experience in the forests Papua New Guinea. "People know how to care for a small animal, but how can we endure the atrocity of destroying a vast area of such beauty?"


Xiao said their work involved helping local tribesmen survey the forests that belong to them in order to protect them from illegal logging, and also helping the tribes develop a kind of eco-forestry, to maintain the sustainability of the Papua New Guinean forest.


"In short, our work is to help them claim their forests which are guaranteed by law," he said. "And the 34,000 hectares is just a beginning."


Sze Pang-Cheung, Forest Campaign Manager for Greenpeace China, said the group's next step is to help 36 tribes claim more than 700,000 hectares of forest.


Sze said they also plan to curb illegal logging by raising domestic lumber companies' awareness of the problem and calling for a boycott on lumber imported from the area.


Illegal logging could account for 76 to 90 percent of the trees felled in the Paradise Forests, according a report issued by Greenpeace last month.


And many of those logs are thought to make their way to China under a fake origin label.


"On one hand, we are trying to curb the illegal logging there, while on the other hand which is even more important we hope to do something about the market which is fuelling the thirst for illegal lumber," said Sze.


"Final destination countries benefiting from China's low-cost manufacturing should also share their responsibility for illegal logging and associated trade," said Zhang Lei, Director of China National Forestry Economics and Development Research Centre, State Forestry Administration. "It is an international responsibility to protect the rainforests," said Zhang.


(China Daily May 24, 2006)

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