Scramble to log Madagascar's valuable rainforest trees in midst of crisis
March 23, 2009
31-Mar update | 30-Mar update
"It is with great sadness that we report the temporary closure of Marojejy National Park to tourism," stated the marojejy.com web site. "The closure was deemed necessary by park management due to the lawlessness that has descended over the SAVA region during this time of political unrest in Madagascar, and the resultant looting and destruction which is currently occurring within the park. In particular, gangs of armed men (led primarily by foreign profiteers in conjunction with the rich local mafia) are plundering the rainforests of Marojejy for the extremely valuable rosewood that grows there."
Illegal logging of rosewood, ebonies, and other hardwoods has emerged as one of the primary drivers of forest degradation in northeastern Madagascar in recent years but, as noted by marojejy.com, the situation has been exacerbated by the political crisis that has led rangers and park officials in some areas to abandon their posts. Timber poachers and other interests are now moving aggressively into protected areas to take advantage of the opportunity according to a local source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The source notes that poachers are coming in from the town of Antalaha on the side of Masoala, an expanse of rainforest renowned for its biological diversity, opposite from the big park headquarters. "The big businessmen are all in Antalaha. This is where the timber goes for export."
"Foreign traders have arrived in local towns seeking to take advantage of the political crisis that has weakened park protection and enforcement," the source continued. "This is the worst, by far, that has happened to the park in recent years. The situation is worse than desperate."
Marojejy.com says the crisis has "serious implications" on several fronts:
But the crisis is also having a devastating effect outside the boundaries of the park itself. With armed militia descending on local villages and death threats being issued, people live in fear; communities are divided, and families are pitted one against the other. Many local people who depend on tourism – guides, porters, shopkeepers, hotel and restaurant personnel – now live in limbo. With no other means of support, some turn to the lucrative rosewood trade.
"The 400 million dollar tourism industry has just been leveled, and that means trouble ahead for the forests of Madagascar," said a local conservationist. "This coup d'etat undermines everything we have worked for for 30 years."
Conservation in Madagascar is highly dependent on income from tourism. Half of park entrance fees are returned to communities living in and around protected areas. Without this source of income, locals in some areas may be forced to turn to conservation areas for timber, fuelwood, and agricultural land as is beginning with criminal syndicates in Marojejy and Masoala.
Marojejy.com says that support for conservation in Madagascar is "more important than ever during this period of turmoil".
"While you might not be able to visit some of these beautiful areas right now, we hope you will not forget them, and that you will continue to work for their preservation."
Earlier: Political turmoil in Madagascar threatens lemurs, parks
Related: Logging of Rare Rosewood and Palisandre (Dalbergia spp.) within Marojejy National Park, Madagascar and Marojejy.com: Crisis in Marojejy
News index | RSS | News Feed | Twitter | Home