British shoppers are unwittingly playing a part in the destruction of one of the world's last great wildlife habitats by buying flooring made of endangered wood from "paradise forests".

Just as demand for mahogany is disfiguring the Amazon, demand for the golden wood merbau is doing immense damage to the forests of New Guinea, described as the place on earth that best resembles "the Garden of Eden".

Dozens of new creatures such as a new species of honeyeater bird were discovered in New Guinea by an expedition in 2005, whose co-leader, Bruce Beehler, said: "There were so many things, it was almost overwhelming." In a report handed exclusively to The Independent, Greenpeace warned a "gold rush" for merbau was destroying the rainforest through the construction of new roads and the felling of trees to allow its removal.

The green pressure group estimated that, at current rates of legal logging, merbau would be commercially extinct within 35 years, though rapacious illegal logging means it may happen much quicker.