Rosewood logging in Masoala National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo Rhett A. Butler
Authorities in Madagascar seized roughly a thousand logs during an ongoing operation in the northeastern part of the country, which has been besieged by illegal logging, reports l’Express de Madagascar. Seven people were arrested.
The operation was coordinated by the Ministry of Environment as part of its campaign against the “logging mafia” blamed for cutting valuable rosewood and palisander trees from protected forests. Under Malagasy law, rosewood can not be harvested or exported from Madagascar.
Voice of America News (VOA) reports that the arrests have been met by protests thought to be organized by loggers and their allies.
“Local newspapers say protests have been orchestrated by a network, which includes major transport companies, that is lobbying for the suspects, who are charged with illegal transport of logs,” said VOA.
The “mafia” successfully lobbied the “transition authority” — which seized power after a bloody March 2009 coup — to lift the rosewood export ban in late 2009. But after international outcry, the ban was reinstated in April 2010.
Ndranto Razakamanarina, president of an alliance of 27 conservation groups in Madagascar, told VOA that the recent government crackdown may be the result of pressure from his alliance, which recently issued a statement “warning the World Bank to support Madagascar’s national parks and biodiversity only if the government shows a willingness to allow the country’s natural resources to be protected rather than plundered.”