Behind the Scenes: Tree Poaching

By Tom Hanson 04.13.2015 blog

While visiting the Central American country of Panama, we met up with Global Brigades–an NGO for students looking to make a difference in third-world countries. They led us on a trip to the Darien Rainforest– one of the most remote parts of Panama– to show us the impact deforestation is having on the local communities, as well as the local ecosystem.

One of the main causes of deforestation in the region is the harvesting of a rare timber called Cocobolo– one of the most expensive woods in the world. Poachers venture into the jungle, cut down the trees, and torch the land–also known as “slash and burn”. This not only affects the environment, but also the people indigenous to the area: the Embera.

Spikes in tree poaching have led to bloody conflicts between the Embera and poachers, and the virgin rainforest the Embera call home is diminishing at an alarming rate. But Global Brigades is trying to change this by creating sustainable farmland out of the aftermath of “slash and burn.”

We went deep into the jungle to investigate. Take a look at the slideshow below for some behind-the-scenes photos from our journey.

The leader of the Embera community leads us deep into the jungle... He clears a path through the dense brush with a machete.
The leader of the Embera community leads us deep into the jungle... He clears a path through the dense brush with a machete.

The leader of the Embera community leads us deep into the jungle... He clears a path through the dense brush with a machete.

One of the kids from the village we visited in the Darien Rainforest. He's mean muggin'
One of the kids from the village we visited in the Darien Rainforest. He's mean muggin'

One of the kids from the village we visited in the Darien Rainforest. He's mean muggin'

One of the community elders walks down this unpaved road in the Embera village. Roads seemingly cease to exist once you enter this region of the jungle.
One of the community elders walks down this unpaved road in the Embera village. Roads seemingly cease to exist once you enter this region of the jungle.

One of the community elders walks down this unpaved road in the Embera village. Roads seemingly cease to exist once you enter this region of the jungle.

Some of kids in the village were playing and showing off! They seemed especially interested in our camera, and the gear we had.
Some of kids in the village were playing and showing off! They seemed especially interested in our camera, and the gear we had.

Some of kids in the village were playing and showing off! They seemed especially interested in our camera, and the gear we had.

I got to meet one of the newest additions to the Embera community--this little guy.
I got to meet one of the newest additions to the Embera community--this little guy.

I got to meet one of the newest additions to the Embera community--this little guy.

Community members take shelter from the heat. Every day in Panama, the temps were a steamy 90 degrees, with a LOT of humidity.
Community members take shelter from the heat. Every day in Panama, the temps were a steamy 90 degrees, with a LOT of humidity.

Community members take shelter from the heat. Every day in Panama, the temps were a steamy 90 degrees, with a LOT of humidity.

We made it back to the village after trudging through the dense jungle that day. Everyone was calling it a night, and getting to bed.
We made it back to the village after trudging through the dense jungle that day. Everyone was calling it a night, and getting to bed.

We made it back to the village after trudging through the dense jungle that day. Everyone was calling it a night, and getting to bed.

Sitting on top of tons of illegal Cocobolo at the Panama/Colombia border. It was poached from deep within the Darien Rainforest.
Sitting on top of tons of illegal Cocobolo at the Panama/Colombia border. It was poached from deep within the Darien Rainforest.

Sitting on top of tons of illegal Cocobolo at the Panama/Colombia border. It was poached from deep within the Darien Rainforest.

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