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WWF calls to stop illegal logging as plundering of Madagascar’s rainforests continues

Lack of governance and export exemptions allow the continuation of illegal rosewood logging in Madagascar and threaten to undermine decades of conservation works.

Lack of governance and export exemptions allow the continuation of illegal rosewood logging in Madagascar and threaten to undermine decades of conservation works.

Recent reports confirm that the situation is worsening.

According to local sources a vessel named “Kiara” last week has docked at the small port of Vohemar in the Northeast of Madagascar, the heart of the illegal rose wood logging to pick up between 192 and 274 containers of illegally cut rosewood.

In the aftermath of a coup d’état in March 2009, Madagascar's rainforests have been pillaged for precious hardwoods such as rosewood and ebony. Up to 20,000 hectares have been affected in Madagascar’s Biodiversity rich Northeast protected areas.

The rosewood logs have mostly been felled within the boundaries of Masoala and Marojejy National Park, a World Heritage Site, as well as Mananara Biosphere Reserve.

Although the logging is selective, not only rosewood trees are cut, as in order to transport the very heavy rose wood, 5-6 trees need to be cut to help float the rose wood down the various rivers towards Vohemar.

This leads to extensive deforestation, opens the forest to intrusion, and in order to eat, the timber fellers, eat all the bush meat available, seriously impacting on many key species, including the various Lemur species in this area.
“The situation is out of control,” said Niall O’Connor WWF’s Regional Representative in Madagascar.

“The number of wood exploiters has suddenly more than doubled from formerly 13 to currently 31 or 32” says O’Connor referring to several articles in the national press.

“We fear and know that the ongoing export of these stock piles of illegally felled logs only further encourages wood operators to cut more wood,” says Niall O’ Connor, Regional Representative of WWF Madagascar and Western Indian Ocean Programme Office.

“We strongly condemn the traffic of these hardwoods as we can see no benefit going to the local people’s livelihoods nor to Madagascar National Parks who manages the protected areas and few can see what benefits go to Government and how it is utilized for the benefit of the state”.

International donors have become impatient with the unsolved situation and fear that decades of vital conservation work in the region is now being undone by the lack of good governance within the environmental sector, led by the state.

The small port town of Vohemar has been the real hub for rosewood export for more than half a year. It is again bustling with people prepared to load the next containers to be picked up by the “Kiara” which is transporting DELMAS Cargo. Several local sources confirm the cargo being loaded into CMA CGM Delmas, a French shipping company’s containers is indeed unprocessed rosewood.

An estimated amount of 1000 containers of rosewood has been stocked in the port town of Vohemar waiting for the next opportunity to leave the country.

According to operators, rose wood sells for 4 000 to 5 000 dollars per ton. The impoverished villagers who were actually cutting the wood and pulled it out of the forests earned about 5000 Ariary a day (approx USD 2.50).

Rosewood is a very dense wood with a red colour going black after a while. It is extremely sought after and logs from Madagascar’s National Parks leave the country mainly for China, where they are turned into furniture, instruments and other wood products being sold everywhere in the world.

“We call on the Malagasy transitional authorities to immediately end all ongoing export of rosewood from Vohemar and other Malagasy ports once and for all. We also ask shipping companies to stop dirtying their hands with the export of illegally felled rosewood. Last but not least, we ask consumers everywhere not to buy rosewood products originating from Madagascar any more,” O’Connor said.