November 09, 2011
NOTE: an earlier version of this post stated that Rajoelina called for logging of Madagascar's forests for rosewood during an interview with the BBC. More context has now been provided and we would like to clarify that Rajoelina may have instead been referring to stocks of rosewood logs. We regret any error.
"The Malagasy do not need to rosewood, they need funding," said Rajoelina, who seized power during unrest in 2009. Rosewood is a tropical hardwood valued for use in furniture and musical instruments.
In the interview Rajoelina downplayed the idea of developing value-added industries for rosewood within Madagascar, saying that training would take too long. Instead it should sell raw logs for export.
Madagascar's national parks have been hard hit by illegal logging, which increased significantly in the months following Rajoelina's power grab in 2009. The Malagasy government has since reinstated a ban on rosewood experts, partly due to pressure from the international community.
Madagascar is one of the world's top conservation priorities. Its unique plant and animal species attract tens of thousands of tourists who spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year. In contrast the rosewood trade is controlled by a small, politically-connected syndicate. Loggers themselves are paid a pittance.
Madagascar's timber exports have been made U.S. news lately due to an investigation into the sourcing practices of Gibson Guitars. The federal government alleges that Gibson knowingly imported illegally logged wood from Madagascar in violation of the Lacey Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided a Gibson facility and seized suspect materials in 2009.