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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 16:15 GMT
Last bow looms for musical trees
violin bows
Violin bows made from the wood of the endangered pau brasil
By environment correspondent Alex Kirby

Researchers from the wildlife conservation group Fauna and Flora International (FFI) say that more than 70 tree species used to make popular musical instruments are globally threatened.

The species include rosewoods, cedars, ebonies and mahoganies, and FFI has launched a special programme, SoundWood, to try to save them.

It is concentrating on two species:
  • the African blackwood, known in Swahili as mpingo, which is used for making clarinets and oboes;
  • the pau brasil, used to make violin bows.
FFI is also working to save other species widely sought for use in guitars, notably mahoganies and Brazilian and Indian rosewoods.

It says supplies of all these species are now in extremely short supply, because of logging and other forms of commercial exploitation.

Popular pressure

SoundWood says the millions of people who buy musical instruments every year can help to save the trees by making sure the ones they buy come from certified sustainably-harvested wood.

It is also working in the countries where the trees grow, to encourage ways of protecting them and reducing pressure on the forests.

In Mozambique, where the mpingo is widely used locally for carving, a SoundWood workshop produced an action plan that backed the idea of conservation through sustainable exploitation.

pau brasil fruit
Over-exploitation threatens the pau brasil
Across the border in Tanzania, FFI says, the need for sustainable management of the mpingo is becoming urgent, with the extension of harbours at Lindi and Mtwara and other infrastructure projects increasing the pressure on the trees.

SoundWood also held a workshop in Brazil - the pau brasil is the country's national tree.

It is one of the scarcest species of the Atlantic coastal forest, and is endangered because of excessive exploitation and large-scale deforestation.

One in ten

SoundWood plans to map the scattered areas where the tree survives so that they can be protected, and is to undertake research to improve cultivation and sustainable management.

The programme is part of the Global Trees Campaign, run jointly by FFI and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, who say over 8,000 species, 10% of the world's trees, are threatened with extinction.

The campaign aims to save the most threatened species and their habitats.

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