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The Madagascar rosewood massacre

D Schuurman
PP Lowry II


Valuable timber has been exploited from Madagascar’s
rainforests for many decades, and Malagasy rosewood and
palissandre (Dalbergia spp.) are among the most sought after
hardwoods in the world. Large quantities have been harvested
and exported at an increasing rate over the last decade, almost
entirely from illegal logging in protected areas, in particular
Masoala and Marojejy National Parks, which comprise part of
the newly - established Atsinanana UNESCO World Heritage Site
in the SAVA (Sambava - Antalaha - Vohémar - Andapa) region
of northeast Madagascar. We present information obtained from
sources in the region that documents an unprecedented, highly
organized expansion in the illegal timber trade operating openly in the wake of the country’s current political turmoil, with more than 625 containers of rosewood worth an estimated US $ 130 million leaving just from the port of Vohémar (Iharana) since early 2009 to cater for the demand of the international market. Members of local communities around Masoala and Marojejy derive very little benefit from timber harvesting, which severely compromises the integrity of the protected areas and their ecosystems, while nearly all the profits go to those who run the illegal operations. Income from ecotourism and other potential benefits is limited at Masoala and Marojejy by the region’s climate, relative inaccessibility and poor infrastructure, making it nearly impossible for locals to resist short - term gains from forest exploitation. Insufficient in numbers and lacking authority, park staff are unable to effect any control over logging activity within protected areas. The current scramble for resources in Madagascar’s parks and reserves challenges the viability of the previous government’s plans to protect 10 % of the country and calls into question the conservation commitment of the current regime.

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eISSN: 1662-2510