Macassar Ebony has been harvested from Sulawesi Indonesia for probably 150 years now. As a consequence, the mature trees are farther and farther back up in the mountains. Because Sulawesi is still quite undeveloped, harvesting takes place by hand. The terrain is steep and roads into the interior almost non-existent.
Firstly, the tropical forests in Indonesia are highly diverse and do not at all exhibit what we know in this country as a tree species-depauperate 'climax forest' in which a relatively few species 'succeed' others to result in their eventual abundance and predominance (for instance 'oak-hickory association' in the central US). In, perhaps, four hectares of forest in Sulawesi there may be 250 species of trees in an uneven-aged stand. In the small areas of the jungle we harvest, of this extraordinarily huge variety, essentially one species is being harvested for export - that being Macassar Ebony. In the small areas of the jungle we harvest, from this extraordinarily high variety essentially one species is being collected for export - Macassar Ebony. Further, because there are no access roads or trails to these interior forests, trees are harvested literally by hand. Selected trees are felled and dragged downhill by manpower. This is accomplished by slings affixed to the shoulders of workers.
As Ebony is extremely heavy and difficult to drag by local villagers, the very narrow band of white wood (sapwood), prone to subsequent insect infestation, on the outside of the log under the bark is cut off. The very center of the log (heart) is cut out, because the hearts are dimensionally unstable and crack , and the 'square logs' or 'cants' are dragged downhill by manpower to the nearest trail. At this trail, the cant is generally attached to a domesticated buffalo, which farther drags the cant to the nearest village or primitive road.
A high percentage of the export revenues are consequently retained by the local harvesting villagers, rather than going into the hands of seemingly innumerable government officials.
Finally, this method of harvesting could not possibly be of lower impact, and the tropical forests in Sulawesi are left, both during and after harvest, altogether intact.