We are flying low in helicopter formation over the Brazilian Amazon with agents from Ibama – the state-funded institute responsible for environmental protection.
No country has done more than Brazil in recent years to tackle the previously rampant levels of deforestation but there is a good reason the agents have their guns drawn – we have seen statistics which show that rates of Amazon destruction are again on the rise.
There are big profits to be made from illegal logging and the fraudulent clearing of rainforest for valuable cash crops and these helicopter patrols are often shot at.
Trying to locate illegal logging operations in the midst of this dense jungle from the air is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Destroyed on the spot
There are probably thousands of small illegal logging camps across the Amazon. Men armed with machetes and chainsaws, cutting down valuable Brazilian hardwoods are the foot soldiers in a highly profitable and dangerous trade.