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Our work

Timber trade

Rainforest logs awaiting export, Gabon © Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon   Timber is by some margin the most valuable wildlife commodity traded. In the early 1990s, TRAFFIC estimated the global timber trade was worth around USD104 billion, approximately 65% of the total worldwide wildlife trade. By 2009, the FAO estimated the annual turnover at more than USD200 billion.

TRAFFIC has a variety of projects investigating and monitoring such trade in Africa, Asia, North and South America and Europe.


TRAFFIC supports the work of COMIFAC (the Central African forests commission), whose member countries include Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Rwanda and Sao Tomé and Principe. TRAFFIC seeks to provide expertise in policy and legal reviews, monitoring of timber trade including illegal trade, bushmeat trade, capacity building and training, and assist in the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Forest Trade sub-programme for TRAFFIC Central Africa (TCAF) was launched in February 2009.

In East Africa, a seminal report into illegal logging in Tanzania, Forestry, governance and national development: Lessons learned from a logging boom in southern Tanzania, led to widespread changes in the governance of forestry operations in the country, and the establishment of the Mama Misitu campaign, a coalition of 17 non-governmental organizations aimed at tackling corruption and mismanagement in Tanzania’s forestry sector.

In South Africa, TRAFFIC is helping the government to monitor the timber trade with neighbouring countries, including providing capacity building and training for species identification, enforcement assistance, and advice on how to enhance controls of the trade.

South America

TRAFFIC and VERIFOR have been working with local governments, civil society organizations and private sector representatives in the Amazonian regions of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia to devise ways to improve forest governance.

An important principle has been recognizing common problems, and building partnerships between stakeholders in the region to tackle them. Key has been identifying where the challenges lie in each region, and ensuring that local perspectives influence the development of the government-led ALFA (Application of Forest Legislation in the Amazon) process. A communications outreach through local radio aims to keep local people in the Amazon region aware of forestry governance issues.

Valuable lessons have been derived from TRAFFIC’s work examining the US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement and its effects on trade liberalization and forest verification.

TRAFFIC has also provided input into CITES and other fora on the trade in Bigleaf Mahogany (PDF, 700 KB).

North America

In the USA, TRAFFIC has worked with other partners to secure the passage of the amended Lacey Act, which now includes timber products in its framework for enforcement.


Several TRAFFIC reports have investigated the trade into various Asian timber species exploited by logging interests—both legally and illegally.

They include reports into the trades in Merbau (PDF, 1 MB) and Ramin (PDF, 2.8 MB), both Southeast Asian tropical hardwoods popular in the European Union for use in flooring and decorative products such as picture frames respectively; Taxus (PDF in Chinese, 2.3 MB), a genus of yew trees, that suffered heavy exploitation over a short time period after it their valuable anti-cancer properties were discovered; Sandalwood in India, which is illegally exported to neighbouring countries; and agarwood, a kind of aromatic resin found inside the trunks of certain Asian tree species, that has been traded for centuries, particularly to destinations in the Middle East. TRAFFIC has also reviewed the cross border timber trade between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. TRAFFIC has reviewed Malaysia’s forestry regulatory framework and recommended changes to enhance the national laws on forestry. With WWF, TRAFFIC has also investigated China's timber trade (PDF, 1.4 MB)

TRAFFIC has also assisted in the training of enforcement officers in the region on the identification of timber species.


In Europe, TRAFFIC has worked mainly with authorities in the European Union, an important destination and transit market for timber shipments from all over the world, particularly with trying to ensure legislation is implemented that will help ensure timber imports into the region are from legally sourced supplies and in compliance with CITES regulations.


Across the regions in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Malaysia, Viet Nam and China, TRAFFIC has also developed, through multi-stakeholder consultation and analysis of the regulatory frameworks, a common framework for assessing legality of forestry operations, timber processing and trade – Principles, Criteria and Indicators.


An online Lacey Act course, hosted by WWF, exists, where you can learn more about this important piece of legislation, particularly from the perspective of an exporter.

Many of TRAFFIC's reports into the timber trade from the forestry publications section of this website. Catalogues listing all the titles on particular topics, including timber, are available from the publications search page.

Several of the regional newsletters also contain articles of relevance, including:

Info TRAFFIC - the French language Information Bulletin of TRAFFIC, with articles in Issue 3 on Exploitation du bois d’oeuvre en Afrique de l’Ouest et centrale; Issue 5 on Gestion durable et légale des forêts tropicales; Issue 7 on Conférence des Parties à la CITES - CdP14; Issue 8 on Critères et lignes de conduites pour la définition et la vérification de la légalité des bois produits en Afrique centrale : bilan du projet GFTN; and Issue 9 on La 9ème session de la Conférence des Parties de la CDB, La COMIFAC avait rendez-vous à Bangui, Commerce du bois en Afrique centrale et definition de la légalité du commerce des produits de bois.

TRAFFIC Post - TRAFFIC India's quarterly newsletter highlighting issues related to illegal wildlife trade in India. Issue 1 and Issue 3 contain information about illegal trade of Red Sanderwood Pterocarpus santalinus in Asia.