Illegal timber finds lawful home

10 years after leaving Zaire, timber from endangered species finds home at Wakhurst place

Customs officers seized an illegal consignment of African timber and 10 years later a top horticultural attraction has benefited. The timber Pericopsis elata, which is an endangered species, arrived in Liverpool from Zaire, via Canada in 1994 without the correct export documents. Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew head of conventions and policy Noel McGough works alongside Customs & Excise as part of the convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The timber, worth £6,000 at 1994 prices, ended up being used for a new visitor centre at Kew’s country garden Wakehurst Place in Sussex. Wakehurst Place head Andy Jackson said: “Working with C&E, we carry out inspections of plant consignments to ensure conformity with the convention and after seizure, we negotiate the final use of the plant material.” Exploitation of the trees has been unsustainable according to the Global Trees Campaign, which alerts governments to problems.

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