In the past 50 years much of the rainforest in Africa and Asia has been destroyed. Large areas of rainforest are being cut down, often in order to remove just a few logs, and rainforest is being destroyed at double the rate of all previous estimates. Unfortunately this means that there is a very high rate of extinction, as the wildlife depending on the forest dies with it.
Many rainforests in Central and South America have been burnt down to make way for cattle farming, which supplies cheap beef to North America, China and Russia. It is estimated that for each pound of beef produced, 200 square feet of rainforest is destroyed. In the past 20 years Costa Rica has lost the majority of its forests to beef cattle ranching. This is known as slash and burn farming and is believed to account for 50% of rainforest destruction. However, the land cannot be used for long: the soil is of poor quality and, without the forest, quickly becomes very dry. The grass often dies after only a few years and the land becomes a crusty desert. The cattle farmers then have to move on and destroy more rainforest to create new cattle pastures.
Indigenous Indians also use "slash and burn" farming techniques, but on a small scale. For centuries they have used a sustainable system where, when they finish using one small patch of land, they move away to a different area and allow the forest to regenerate. Since the area cleared is small, the soil does not dry out and therefore the forest clearance is localized and temporary rather than extensive and permanent.