New techniques will help customs officers identify and seize wood that came from endangered species

The wooden blinds that lie crumpled in Peter Gasson’s laboratory in Kew Gardens are chipped and forlorn-looking. Their manufacturers had claimed they were made of pine but customs officers were wary. And their suspicions were well-founded. Gasson, Kew’s research leader on wood and timber, found the blinds were not made of pine but ramin.

“All ramin trees, which grow in south-east Asia, are endangered and trade in their wood is illegal,” said Gasson. “On this occasion, we got lucky and stopped people profiting from this trade.”

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