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Madagascar’s new president pledges to fight illegal logging

Madagascar’s newly elected president Hery Rajaonarimampianina pledged to ‘lead the fight’ against illegal rosewood logging in the impoverished island nation.

Speaking at a meeting Wednesday in Antananarivo, Rajaonarimampianina asserted that addressing illegal rosewood trade was a matter of asserting rule of law in Madagascar, which has suffered from chaotic governance since a 2009 power grab by former radio DJ Andry Rajoelina.

“The political will exists to fight this evil; it is essential to assert the rule of law,” he said, comparing the trade to looting of the country’s natural wealth.

Rajaonarimampianina added that the government would take unspecified measures to address the issue.

Rosewood rainforest of Madagascar

Rosewood logging exploded in the aftermath of Rajoelina’s coup in 2009. Protected rainforests were ransacked by bands of loggers, while endangered lemurs were poached for the bushmeat trade, spurring outrage among environmentalists and conservation scientists.

Rajoelina’s government eventually established regulations to control the rosewood trade, but a paper published in the journal MADAGASCAR CONSERVATION & DEVELOPMENT last year indicates that timber smuggling continued through 2013. Stockpiles of illegally logged timber have mostly been moved overseas, according to that report.

Nonetheless, conservationists are hoping that the Rajaonarimampianina’s recent election — dubbed free and fair by international observers — will spur the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money that was suspended during Rajoelina’s rule. The funds could provide a much-needed boost for conservation programs in the country.

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