Conservation news

Nature guide freed in Madagascar 5 months after arrest for exposing rosewood trade

Armand Marozafy dismantling a poacher's trap within Masoala National Park in Madagascar in 2004. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Armand Marozafy dismantling a poacher's trap within Masoala National Park in Madagascar in 2004. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

  • Armand Marozafy, a nature guide in Madagascar, has been freed after spending 5 months in prison.
  • Marozafy had been arrested for ‘defamation’ for exposing two businessmen allegedly linked to illegal rosewood logging.
  • Critics said Marozafy’s arrest undermined Madagascar’s ecotourism sector, while empowering illegal loggers.

Armand Marozafy, a nature guide in Madagascar who was arrested on defamation charges for sending an email exposing two businessmen allegedly linked to illegal rosewood logging, has been released after serving five months in prison.

Marozafy, 49, was released on Wednesday after the court of appeals reduced his sentence from six to four months. The move was unexpected, given allegations that rosewood interests influenced the court proceedings.

Marozafy’s April 27, 2015 arrest cast further doubt on Madagascar’s commitment to tackling illegal logging, which has plagued the island nation since a 2009 coup. Marozafy, a well-known ecotourist guide who has taken some of the world’s leading conservationists into the rainforests of the Masoala Peninsula, has been the only person arrested since Madagascar’s president Hery Rajaonarimampianina promised to crack down on the rosewood trade in February 2014, despite the identities of rosewood barons being well-known to authorities.

Environmentalists who have investigated the trade haven’t been surprised by the lack of follow through by the Malagasy government.

“It’s not news that corruption in the forest sector is a terrible and intractable problem, but it’s been clear from the beginning that it’s fed by export of [rose]wood and the extraordinary profits that roll back and can pay off judges to create situations like this one,” Alexander von Bismarck of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) told Mongabay.com.

Most of Madagascar’s remaining rosewood stocks exist deep in the country’s most biologically diverse forests: the rainforests of the northeastern parts of the island. Besides degrading forests, illegal logging has been associated with a rise in commercial bushmeat hunting, threats and violence against conservation workers, and encroachment into protected areas like Masoala, Makira, and Marojejy.

Read more on the case: Activist arrested while illegal loggers chop away at Madagascar’s forests