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3 August 2009

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Madagascar

Madagascar issues fines for timber stolen from national parks during political crisis

Authorities in Madagascar have blocked shipment of 176 containers of rosewood and other valuable timber from Vohmar port, pending payment of 72 million Malagasy ariary ($37,500) in fines reports Noro Niaina of Les Nouvelles. The wood was illegally harvested from Marojejy and Masoala National Parks during the chaos that followed a March military coup on the Indian Ocean island nation.

The exporters will also be required to pay taxes on the illicit timber. If payments are not made within 15 days, the timber will be seized by the government.

Proceeds from the fine and taxes will go toward forest protection and local community development in villages around the affected parks, according to authorities.

The timber, valued at 12.6 billion ariary ($655,000), is expected to be exported to China.

Illegal logging in the rainforests of Marojejy and Masoala National Parks made international news in March and April this year. Armed gangs moved into the protected areas following abandonment of posts by rangers in the midst of the island nation's political crisis. Illegal logging of rosewood, ebonies, and other hardwoods caused significant forest degradation in northeastern Madagascar, threatening endangered species of lemurs and other wildlife.

An island slightly larger than the state of California, Madagascar is home to a bewildering array of wildlife from dancing lemurs to absurdly colorful chameleons. Eighty percent of the island's species are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else on Earth. Biologists estimate that one percent of the planet's biodiversity--and more than half of Madagascar's biological richness--is found in the rainforests of northeastern Madagascar.

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