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28 October 2009

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Madagascar

Rosewood traffickers busted in Madagascar

Authorities in Madagascar have sacked a local official, arrested several businessmen, and issued fines following the discovery of illegally harvested rosewood logs aboard a ship, reports L'Express de Madagascar.

Hery Rajaonarimampianina, Madagascar's Minister of Finance and Budget, said the Director of Environment and Forests of the Sava region (Northeastern Madagascar) has been suspended and several businessmen arrested in the aftermath of a raid on "Lea", a ship that left the port of Vohemar on October 7 but was diverted to Toamasina (Tamatave) by authorities three days later on the grounds that it might by carrying illegal hardwoods. A subsequent investigation found that 64 of the ship's 91 containers of rosewood were illicit.

The action came as part of a crackdown led by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The sweep has also turned up hundreds of logs buried on beaches and hidden in rice fields.

Madagascar's forests have been pillaged for their previous hardwoods in recent months. Political instability following the March military coup has undermined law enforcement and ushered in rampant logging of the islands national parks. A recent analysis by Lucienne Wilmé, Porter P. Lowry and Peter H. Raven of the Missouri Bontanical Gardens and Derek Schuurman of Rainbow Tours estimated that illegal logging affected 11,000-16,000 hectares of forest in Marojejy, Masoala, and Makira natural parks. Traders earned tens of millions of dollars exporting the timber, much of which went to China.

At least 200 containers of logs — worth more than $40 million — currently await shipment from Vohemar.

Logging was accompanied by commercial bushmeat hunting of lemurs in some areas.

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