Government decree sanctions trafficking of rainforest timber in Madagascar

mongabay.com
October 07, 2009



A new decree by Madagascar's transitional government may fuel continued destruction of the country's tropical forests and biodiversity, warns a statement issued jointly by a dozen leading scientific and conservation groups.

The decree, issued by Andry Rajoelina, a politician who seized the presidency during a March military coup, allows the export of hardoods illegally harvested from Madagascar's national parks during the political crisis. The timber, much of which was cut from Marojejy and Masoala national parks, was previously banned from export following international outcry over the destruction of protected areas as well as the accompanying commercial bushmeat poaching of endangered lemurs and other wildlife.



Hardwood logs likely cut from Masoala National Park being loaded in Maroantsetra, Madagascar


Rosewood logs on a beach in Maroantsetra, Madagascar.
While Rajoelina's government previously decreed a ban on further harvesting of precious woods, the statement says the new decree "will allow their export and surely encourage a further wave of environmental pillaging."

"Malagasy civil society, conservation and development organizations and the international community are united in lamenting the issue of the most recent decree, in fearing its consequences and in questioning its legitimacy," reads the statement. "Consumers of rosewood and ebony products are asked to check their origin, and boycott those made of Malagasy wood."

A Global Witness report estimates that $35 million worth of rosewood was been cut per month since Madagascar's political crisis escalated in January. Exploitation allegedly involves criminal gangs, government officials, and timber traders in France and China.

Madagascar's forests and wildlife have been hard hit by the crisis. Beyond illegal exploitation and trafficking, political instability has dried up the country's $390 million-a-year tourism business, much of which is based around ecotourism. Donors have also cut aid, seeking to avoid lending legitimacy to the unelected government.
Malagasy government’s decree for precious wood export will unleash further environmental pillaging

Recently Madagascar’s transitional government issued two contradictory decrees: first, the exploitation of all precious woods was made illegal, but then a second allowed the export of hundreds of shipping containers packed with this illegally harvested wood. Madagascar’s forests have long suffered from the abusive exploitation of precious woods, most particularly rosewoods and ebonies, but the country’s recent political problems have resulted in a dramatic increase in their exploitation. This activity now represents a serious threat to those who rely on the forest for goods and services and for the country’s rich, unique and highly endangered flora and fauna.

Precious woods are being extracted from forests by roving and sometimes violent gangs of lumbermen and sold to a few powerful businessmen for export. Madagascar has 47 species of rosewood and over 100 ebony species that occur nowhere else, and their exploitation is pushing some to the brink of extinction. Those exploiting the trees are also trapping endangered lemurs for food, and the forests themselves are being degraded as trees are felled, processed and dragged to adjacent rivers or roads for transport to the coast. No forest that contains precious woods is safe, and the country’s most prestigious nature reserves and favoured tourist destinations, such as the Marojejy and Masoala World Heritage Sites and the Mananara Biosphere Reserve, have been the focus of intensive exploitation. Currently thousands of rosewood and ebony logs, none of them legally exploited, are stored in Madagascar’s east coast ports, Vohémar, Antalaha, and Toamasina. The most recent decree will allow their export and surely encourage a further wave of environmental pillaging.

Malagasy civil society, conservation and development organizations and the international community are united in lamenting the issue of the most recent decree, in fearing its consequences and in questioning its legitimacy. Consumers of rosewood and ebony products are asked to check their origin, and boycott those made of Malagasy wood.

Signed

CAS California Academy of Science
CI Conservation International
DWCT Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
EAZA European Association of Zoos and Aquaria
ICTE Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments
MBG Missouri Botanical Garden
MFG Madagascar Fauna Group
The Field Museum, Chicago
WASA World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
WCS Wildlife Conservation Society
WWF World Wide Fund for Nature
Zoo Zürich







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CITATION:
mongabay.com (October 07, 2009).

Government decree sanctions trafficking of rainforest timber in Madagascar.

http://news.mongabay.com/2009/1007-madagascar.html