Here in the vast wilderness surrounding Peru's Alto Purús National Park, the locations of such trees, worth tens of thousands of dollars in the United States, have become closely guarded secrets among members of indigenous tribes.
Industrial logging is pushing ever deeper into the area, making mahogany the leading front in the ever-growing battle for control of the resource-rich Peruvian Amazon. But the threat goes far beyond any single species, said Chris Fagan, director of the Upper Amazon Conservancy.
Deforestation and the quickly advancing logging frontier have forced still-uncontacted people into violent conflict with settlers, while threatening the sanctity of one of the last, most bio-diverse places on Earth. And scientists fear for the region's vast forests, which act as an enormous sponge, soaking in the pollutants responsible for climate change.
``This isn't just about mahogany anymore,'' Fagan said. ``The world has a stake in what is happening here.'' Watchdog groups fault Peru for failing to take strong action to protect its forests, while also blaming the U.S. consumer for driving nearly 80 percent of the demand for Peruvian mahogany.
Though a 2009 trade pact with the U.S. obligated Peru to beef up the laws and institutions governing the forest industry, the country's independent Ombudsman's Office and nongovernmental groups found many problems.