Southeast Asia, global epicentre of deforestation

The WWF's 2020 Living Planet Report shows a critical situation for the region. 1.2% of forests are lost each year. Among the causes, the conversion of entire forests into plantations used for the extensive production of palm oil. China is the global epicentre of wildlife trafficking.

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Human activity has caused a dramatic decline in natural biodiversity, threatening millions of animal, plant and insect species with extinction for decades to come.

This is what emerges from the biennial report entitled “Living Planet Report”, recently published by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and which summarizes the state of wild fauna and flora in the world on the basis of expert monitoring.

Among the areas most at risk is Southeast Asia, threatened by an increasing rate of deforestation which causes the irreparable loss of animals and plants throughout the region.

The loss in the ecosystem is due to a series of factors including pollution, followed by the growing spread of invasive species, extensive hunting and fishing and climate change, elements on which Pope Francis himself has repeatedly insisted on.

Added to this is the trafficking of wildlife, which has become a source of enormous profits. The greatest demand comes from China, now the epicentre of the trade in exotic species, both for domestic use as a status symbol and for the preparation of food or medicines.

According to the WWF report, the greatest cause of wildlife losses in recent decades have been the conversion of forests, grasslands and mangroves into agricultural systems. At the same time, the unbridled exploitation of the oceans needs to be underscored. In reference to Asia, the main causes of the devastation and loss of animals are "deforestation and overfishing".

Southeast Asia is home to nearly 15% of the world's tropical forests and is also one of the epicentres of deforestation. On July 20, the environmentalist website reported that deforestation in the region has been vastly underestimated.

 According to Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Southeast Asia had the highest deforestation rate of any large tropical region in 2013, losing 1.2% of its forests annually, followed by Latin America and Africa.

As of May 2019, the area was home to 15% of the world's tropical forests, but was at the same time one of the hotspots for the "serious loss" of biodiversity. Among the reasons behind the phenomenon was the conversion of entire forests into plantations used for the extensive production of palm oil.

Reports from independent bodies confirm that many officials in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines "are profiting from their dominant positions" and deforestation is only "the least of their concerns".