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Lumbering in Tropical Forests
The forests in the tropics contain hardwood with specific gravity greater than that of water. A small percentage is commercially exploited. Working conditions in the tropical forest are extremely difficult due to heavy rainfall and high temperature and lack of transport and due to the fact that the trees have no' pure stands in them. The growth of the forests is vigorous. There is a great variety of trees-all mixed up, and as such, it is very difficult to obtain one type of forest product. The way to the forest is blocked by under-brush. Many species of lumber are hard and heavy. The climate being not congenial to human health, labour supply is short. Due to all these handicaps logging activities are confined to small patches within easy reach of rivers, seacoasts or hill, cities and towns. Still, timbers of mahogany, cedar, ebony, rosewood, etc. move to temperate lands. From less rainy forests teak, sandalwood, logwood and boxwood go both to local and foreign markets.
In Burma, India and Thailand where extraction of teak has long been an important activity, the use of elephants is traditional. Many forest areas in the tropics are rendered unsuitable for exploitation by the activities of shifting cultivators. The heaviness of the logs and the impenetrability of the forests of the one hand, and the generally underdeveloped nature of the areas in which they occur on the other, combine to make the removal of felled logs very difficult.
Mahogany: It is moderately hard with beautiful grain and rich colour. For cabinetwork it is greatly demanded. It is the most important of all tropical timbers-the demand for which is increasing due to its high quality. All mahogany lumbering districts are near water. It is largely found in the forests along the Caribbean coast, western Africa, southeastern Asia and Philippines. Finest wood comes from British Honduras and the Dominican Republic and Mexico
Cedar: It is reddish, soft and fragrant. It ranks next to mahogany as an important commercial product of the tropical forests. It has wide markets in the tropical countries. Cedar is used for making pencils, cigar boxes, chests and for general purposes. Caribbean lands, Brazil, Mexico, western Africa and southern Asia furnish most of the tropical cedar in the world.
Teak: It is in great demand because of its strength and durability. Where there is a dry season of several month a' duration, teak grows best. Since teak occurs in pure stand it can easily be exploited. The industry is extremely important in Thailand, Burma, Indochina, Java and the Philippines. It is used in ships as a preservative for it contains oil. It is resistant to white ants and to fire. Trees are felled during the dry season and transportation begins in rainy season with the swelling of rivers. Logs are pulled to the river by well-trained elephants. Ports handling teak are at the mouth of Irrawaddy and Salween.
Ebony: It is a hardwood of coal black colour. It is found in the forests of Africa, Madagascar and southeastern Asia.
Other tropical woods are sandalwood, satinwood and rosewood.