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8 June 2009

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Conflict

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China

International community calls for action against gangs' illegal logging in Madagascar

Six nations and three conservation organizations have issued a statement calling for action against illegal logging in Madagascars protected areas.

Following a political coup, in which former President Marc Ravalomanana was driven out of power and replaced by Andry Rajoelina, park rangers abandoned their positions and armed bands raided Marojejy and Masoala National Parks for the rosewood and ebony trees. The armed gangs are being paid to log the forest by Chinese traders.

The statement reads, "we believe the recent, dramatic escalation in illegal logging is directly linked to the irresponsible actions by mafia-like groups and governance challenges linked with a fragile institutional context that makes enforcement of existing laws and regulations difficult.

As well as devastating Madagascar's unique environments and biodiversity, the illegal logging is exacerbating poverty in the country, according to the statement. The Malagasy people only marginally benefit financially from the illegal trade, since the money goes to the traders not Madagascar's rural poor. An anonymous source has told Mongabay.com that local villagers have avoided logging themselves for fear of prosecution.

"We are troubled that Madagascar's image, nationally and internationally, as a country committed to the protection of its unique biodiversity and natural resources is being irreparably damaged," the statement continues.

There are fears that the armed gangs could spread to other protected areas, worsening the damage to Madagascar's unique ecosystems.

The statement calls for a "more proactive and aggressive" response is to address the situation. It is essential that the Malagasy authorities, with the support of all stakeholders, improve support to protected areas in order to preserve the extraordinary biological riches of Madagascar."

Signatories of the statement are the French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Swiss, and USA embassies. The document was also signed by KfW Entwicklungsbank, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and conservation organizations, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Wildlife Fund.

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Assessing illegal logging

Chatham House is assessing the scale and effectiveness of the response to illegal logging and the related trade around the world. Full details of this work, including analysis and data, will be available online soon.