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Rosewood of Madagascar: Between democracy and conservation

H Randriamalala
Z Liu


In 2009 an estimated 52,000 tonnes of precious wood from ca. 100,000 rosewood and ebony trees was logged in north - east Madagascar, one third originating from Marojejy National Park and its environs, the remainder from in and around Masoala National Park. At least 500,000 additional trees and many miles of vines were cut to make rafts to transport the heavy ebony and rosewood logs. Approximately 36,700 tonnes were shipped in 1,187 containers, almost all to China, for a total export sale price estimated at $ US 220 million. In the SAVA region, members of the timber syndicate pocketed 76 % of this whereas the State collected just $ US 15.3 million. Of the three main companies that transported rosewood from Vohemar, Delmas benefited most; three banks also facilitated the illegal timber trade. Fraud is perpetrated by the syndicate and government administrators along every step in Madagascar’s precious timber trade in a coordinated effort to maximize profit and minimize taxes and fines. Poor governance and a lack of clarity in forest regulation have facilitated timber trafficking and undermined judicial control; during at least three periods (1992, 2006 and 2009 - 2010) escalation of rosewood exportation has been facilitated by government decrees issued prior to elections or during difficult political times, in each instance accompanied by ‘exceptional’ government orders allowing a few powerful operators to export massive quantities of wood – all part of a carefully orchestrated cycle. The near-silence of donors and NGOs is linked to their loss of influence following suspension of all but humanitarian aid since 17 March 2009.

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eISSN: 1662-2510