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28 December 2009





Shipment of questionable Madagascar rosewood canceled after international outcry

A planned shipment of rosewood that had been illegally logged from Madagascar's rainforest parks has been canceled following international outcry, report sources in Madagascar. The shipment, which would have been transported by Delmas, a French shipping company, had been scheduled for December 21st or 22nd out of the port of Vohemar.

Several sources in northeastern Madagascar report that Delmas picked up only vanilla from Vohemar during its port-of-call last week. The company had been under pressure after word of the shipment was leaked to international media less than a week before the scheduled shipment. Ecological Internet, an activist network, followed the report with a campaign targeting the French government and Delmas. The French delegation at climate talks in Copenhagen was also made aware of the allegations, which put Delmas directly in conflict with France's push to establish stronger safeguards against illegal logging as a means to reduce emissions from deforestation.

Word of the shipment also reached Andry Rajoelina, Madagascar's interim president, who was reportedly "enraged," according to Radio Vanille. 13 rosewood traffickers were subsequently arrested, although it is unclear whether they are still incarcerated.

Nevertheless rosewood logs still sit in Vohemar and other towns awaiting shipment. Local sources expect the timber to be eventually exported and laundered through nearby Reunion or Mauritius on the way to China where it will be turned into furniture.

The rosewood trade exploded following the March military coup that dislodged President Marc Ravalomanana. In the absence of law enforcement, armed gangs marauded through national parks, cutting rosewood for export and poaching birds and lemurs for an emerging commercial bushmeat trade. Up to 15,000 ha (40,000 acres) of Masoala, Makira, Marojejy, and other protected areas were affected by logging, which drove off tourists, an important source of income in the region. The transitional authority has since implemented some controls over the trade, but with limited effectiveness. Valuable hardwood continues to be illegally shipped out of the country.


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.