Ancient hardwood trees in Namibias Caprivi State Forest are being poached by a controversial Chinese businessman whos exploiting legal loopholes the government wont close.
For about 12 kilometers west from the Namibian town of Katima Mulilo, along an old smugglers track that runs along the Zambian border, hundreds of teak and rosewood trees lie grey and dead. Their felled trunks ooze red resin, much like the blood of the elephants that once inhabited this stretch of state forest before the poachers came.
And just like with the demand for ivory, its a Chinese trend the current craze for redwood or hongmu furniture as a status symbol that has ignited a logging rush thats devastating sub-Saharan Africas remaining hardwood forests.
Here in Caprivi State Forest, the trees are being cut down by crews working for Xuecheng Hou, a controversial Chinese businessman with prior criminal convictions, who, along with his associates, has been involved in the illegal wildlife products trade. He is currently facing several criminal charges in Namibia for alleged dealing in wildlife contraband. When the hardwood teak and rosewood trees are cut down, the local Mafwe tribe and the Namibian government will get a few dollars per tree, and the wood will sell for thousands in China.
Meanwhile, rather than stopping the wholesale deforestation of a national forest, the government has left the land in a vague legal limbo that has made it easier for the plunder to continue. The Director of Forestry gave vague and often contradictory answers to reporters, and no one seems committed to stop the clearcutting.
A loud crack sent a shudder through the Caprivi State Forest, heralding the fall of another giant.
Three days of covert observation by a journalist from Oxpeckers, an OCCRP partner that specializes in investigating environmental crime, es...