The Cambodian Rosewood

A towering Cambodian Redwood tree photographed against the backdrop of a bright sky.

The Cambodian Rosewood Tree is an amazing natural resource and a wonder to gaze upon but is it under threat? It is the most famous hardwood timber that resides in Cambodia, the timber can be found in many different places around the country, from the eastern border with Vietnam to the western Thai border and many places between.

There are also other varieties of Rosewood grown in Cambodia. It is a very sought after timber both by local people and for export alike, in particular, China.

What is Cambodian Rosewood Used For?

The Cambodian Rosewood has been used by local carpenters and furniture makers for many generations. Before machinery, the local Khmer people would cut down these giants that grow between 20 to 30 meters by hand. Followed by handcrafting the piece they desired. The timber is very popular for fine furniture such as beds and desk tables and traditional musical instruments such as the Ranaat ek and Dunhuang.

The Cambodian or Siamese Rosewood trees are part of the Rosewood family of trees that can be found all over the world. From South America, India, Africa, the rest of South Asia and more, this tree family is used by many nations the same way the Khmer people have used for generations. However, the Brazilian Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora ) is amazingly used to make Rosewood Oil.

It is an essential oil that can be used as an antiseptic, antidepressant or even deodorant. While being from so many different places in the world, the trees have many of the same characteristics as each other.

Most notably as the name implies, Rosewood is a medium to dark reddish brown with darker brown to black streaks throughout the tree. It is a beautiful timber that also has a sweet aroma, these two characteristics are also what makes these trees so sought after.

Under Pressure

China is head and shoulders above most nations in the world when it comes to the import of rosewood to their shores. Unfortunately, not all of this importing is legal and there have been many disputes in the past about China’s hand in illegal logging. A cubic meter of Cambodian Rosewood could be bought for around $5000 in Cambodia, It can then be sold on in China illegally for more than 10 times its original cost.

Due to this, the Cambodian Rosewood is getting ever closer to extinction. Recently there have been more treaties signed between the two countries to try to ensure the safety of this peaceful giant of the forest. This is largely thanks to many NGO groups that assist with protecting the tree.

Since the flow of Rosewood out of Cambodia is beginning to ease slightly, the Chinese hunt for Rosewood has turned its sights to other nations such as Africa and India.

What is the future for the Cambodian Rosewood?

One of the things that makes Cambodia such a special place is its lush deep forests that once covered the majority of the land. In 2013 authorities listed the Cambodian Rosewood to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

While this was a major win for the people trying to protect this species from extinction, it is still difficult to stem the flow of timber being illegally exported. The future is not completely bleak for this species with harsher laws being enforced for illegal logging. With attitudes changing all over the world to logging and environmentalism, we hope that the next 10 years brings in a time when the Cambodian Rosewood and all the many other species of flora and fauna can flourish once again.

Of course, the demand for timber will always be there, especially in an ever-growing world population. However, certain logging companies in Cambodia have started to realize that with a well-managed forest comes with other benefits other than just saving certain species of flora and fauna. In addition to helping and supporting the local community, better-managed forests provide an opportunity for ecotourism, one of the fastest growing sectors in the Cambodian tourism industry.

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