Researchers: Madagascar rosewoods deserve CITES protection

/ Jeremy Hance

A new policy paper in Science warns that several species of Madagascar's rosewood could be pushed to extinction due to a current illegal logging crisis on the island. These hardwood species should be considered for protection under Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the researchers conclude.

A new policy paper in Science warns that several species of Madagascar’s rosewood could be pushed to extinction due to a current illegal logging crisis on the island. These hardwood species should be considered for protection under Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the researchers conclude.

“Forty-seven of Madagascar’s 48 species of rosewood (Dalbergia) are found nowhere else in the world,” explains Meredith Barrett, lead author and graduate student at Duke University.

Barrett and other researchers used geospatial tools to map historical and current ranges for eight of Madagascar’s rosewood species. They found that due to deforestation, distribution had been reduced by 54-98 percent depending on the species. All eight of the species analyzed fit the requirements for CITES Appendix I protection, which prohibits commercial trade entirely.

Rosewood is being transferred from the Manantenina River to ground transportation in broad daylight. Photo by: © Science/AAAS.

Since the next CITES meeting doesn’t occur until 2013, the researchers recommend that Madagascar’s interim government list these rosewood species under Appendix III to stave off extinction.

In addition, the researchers write, “the international community should raise awareness of the consequences of rosewood logging, place pressure on the Malagasy government to implement improvements, and reduce market demand for illegal wood products.”

A coup in Madagascar last year opened up an opportunity for loggers, pushed by foreign traders, to cut tens of thousands of hectares of forest in Madagascar’s most biodiverse rainforests, including a number of protected areas. The infiltration into parks also led to widespread slaughter of some lemur-species for bushmeat.

Barrett says that the trees were cut for the lucrative rosewood market largely based in China where high-end furniture and musical instruments are made.

Not only were the trees illegally cut, but according to the paper little of the money made from cutting the rosewood would stay in Madagascar, a deeply impoverished nation.

Barrett says that locals participating in the trade would make 50 cents for “backbreaking work”, while Global Witness and EIA reported last November that logging of rosewood and ebony was worth 460,000 US dollars per day. A single rosewood armoire in China runs for 20,000 US dollars, according to the paper.

“If you protect the trees, you’re also protecting habitat,” Barrett said. “Seventy percent of Madagascar’s species live in these forests.”

To date much of Madagascar has been deforested, leading to big problems with erosion and significant losses in biodiversity and species-abundance. Many of the infiltrated parks represent the last habitat for embattled species, including several types of lemurs.

Rosewood stockpiled on a private residence, located in the port city of Antalaha, Madagascar. Photo by: © Science/AAAS.

Rosewood, which was cut inside Masoala National Park, is being transferred to the port city of Antalaha, Madagascar. Photo by: © Science/AAAS.

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