The guardians of Siamese rosewood

“We bury a GPS tracker in the wood. We call them rabbits,” says Cheewapap Cheewatham, director of Thailand’s Forest Protection and Fire Control Bureau, part of the forestry department. He tells China Dialogue that they used to just impound as evidence cut rosewood they found in the forest. Now they follow it. “We even stopped a shipping vessel from leaving.”

For years, Thailand’s authorities have been fighting a deadly war on the border with Cambodia and Laos to prevent the poaching of rare and valuable Siamese rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis). The forestry officials chase their “rabbits” all the way to China, where the wood is usually made into furniture and can fetch as much as US$100,000 per cubic metre.

Forestry officials are also implanting rabbits in uncut trees and developing versions that can monitor sound within a one-kilometre radius, keeping a digital ear open for cars and saws.  

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Ryn Jirenuwat, Tyler Roney