This working paper elaborates on the reasons why illegal logging activities still exist in Indonesia despite the efforts that have been made by the government. This paper offers recommendations for tackling the misdeclaration of timber information. It aims to provide recommendations to the Government of Indonesia to strengthen the SVLK's role in ensuring timber legality and enforcing the law by applying science-based technologies as criminal evidence for illegal logging cases.

Key Findings

  • The SVLK aims to ensure the legality of legally certified timber along the supply chain, from the first time the timber is harvested until it enters the market. As a system, if SVLK regulations are thoroughly implemented during each stage of the supply chain, it can trace timber back to its origin. However, findings from our study suggest the opposite. From a study of literature and field work, we found noncompliant SVLK implementation in both state and nonstate forests. The most common noncompliant SVLK implementation involves timber laundering. This situation has put the SVLK’s credibility at risk and has violated the legal constituent of V-legal (the SVLK’s legal certificate of a timber product).
  • Timber administration in nonstate forests is looser since it is only controlled through paperwork, increasing the chances of document falsification. Document falsification is often done to avoid complication of domestic timber administration and for exporting species such as Indonesian rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia; known locally as sonokeling), which would need to comply with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The misdeclaration of timber species is also done to pay lower forest levies. Forest levies are imposed on timber harvested from state forests according to the commercial value and the region where the timber was harvested.
  • Science-based tools such as wood ID technologies can identify timber species and origins. Applying these technologies to the timber chain of custody can stop timber laundering by locating any misdeclaration of timber species and origin information found in the legal documentation. Any timber document falsification related to species and origin information can be spotted during any stage of the supply chain, and timber laundering can be avoided. Therefore, illegal timber trading can be prevented, and any indication of illegal logging activities can be identified at an early stage.
  • This paper briefly elaborates on the different types of wood ID technologies and techniques (wood anatomy, machine vision, mass spectrometry, near-infrared spectroscopy, stable isotope analysis, and deoxyribonucleic acid analysis).
  • Wood anatomy is the most utilized wood ID technique in Indonesia due to a large database of wood samples, and it is supported by adequate expertise. In illegal logging cases, law enforcement frequently uses this method to specify wood specimen up to genus or species level.
  • To apply the technologies, Indonesia has a decent capacity of wood experts, but it still lacks laboratory equipment and a wood reference database. The Xylarium Bogoriense, part of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, has one of the biggest collections of wood samples in the world to support wood anatomy analysis, but other technologies require a specific wood reference database to support their analysis.
  • A huge investment is required for the early stage of infrastructure development for wood ID technologies to purchase laboratory equipment and establish a wood reference database for each wood species. Due to the time and expense of such an undertaking, the most significant wood species should be prioritized when establishing a wood reference database. Indicators such as the commercial value, frequency of being reported in illegal logging cases, protection status, species distribution, level of abundancy, and accessibility to collect wood samples can be used as the basis for selecting high-priority wood species for the wood reference.

Executive Summary

  • In 2009, Indonesia established the Timber Legality Assurance System (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu; SVLK). However, records of misdeclarations of species and origin indicate that illegal logging and the illegal timber trade persist.
  • In Indonesia, forest areas are divided into two categories: state forests and nonstate forests. Each category has a different way of reporting in the SVLK. For this paper, we collected information about SVLK implementation in the field from various nongovernmental organization (NGO) reports (state forests) and from field work (nonstate forests).
  • This paper explores the potential of wood identification (ID) technologies in generating information about timber species and origin through literature review and correspondence with experts who have experience applying the technologies in illegal logging cases. The ability of these technologies to generate species and origin information is essential in proving the legality of traded timber.
  • Our assessment found that Indonesia has a moderately decent capacity for applying wood ID technologies in term of experts and infrastructure. Investing in the development of a wood reference database and laboratory equipment, as well as a legal framework to integrate these technologies into SVLK regulations, would enable the technologies to improve Indonesia’s effort to prevent illegal logging and illegal timber trading.