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Borneo Forest Faces Extinction

Illegal logging is destroying the equatorial rain forests of Indonesian Borneo, bringing the island, once known as the lungs of Asia, to the brink of an ecological disaster.

Not only has 95 percent of the forest legally set aside for logging been cleared but nearly 60 percent of protected national parkland has been illegally logged, according to a new report in this week's Science by professor Lisa M. Curran of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

The illegal timber is turned into plywood and is exported to other parts of Asia. It is also used to build furniture for Japanese, European and U.S. markets. The island of Kalimantan's valuable old growth, called meranti (Philippine mahogany), is used for hardwood flooring and provides wood trim for luxury automobiles.

If the current rate of destruction continues, the report says, Kalimantan, which is about the size of Texas, will be completely stripped of its rain forests in the next three years.