Global demand has pushed China's total imports of timber logs up nine-fold over the last decade to be worth 5.6 billion dollars last year, according to Chinese customs data that does not include the illicit trade. The insatiable appetite means many of Asia's ancient forests face imminent extinction, and, with it, the demise of hundreds of forest-dependent plant and animal species, environmental groups say.
"It is estimated that at present cutting rates the natural forests in Papua New Guinea will be logged out in 13-16 years," Washington-based environmental group Forest Trends warned in a report published last year. "The equivalent figure for Indonesia is 10 years. The situation is Myanmar is no better, and maybe even worse." China has taken steps to protect its own forests, but in turn that has forced suppliers to tap the resources of nations like Myanmar, where a corrupt military government is directly involved in the trade.