As the President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy, argues in Paris that more funding is needed to stop deforestation and mitigate climate change, a shipment of illegal rosewood is being readied for export in Madagascar by a French company with the tacit approval of the French government.
The shipment of some 4,000-5,000 tons of rosewood will be shipped under the auspices of the French company, Delmas, according to Derek Schuurman, who has published papers on the illegal logging crisis for the Madagascar Conservation Journal and TRAFFIC.
“An estimated 200-270 containers are likely to be exported in March,” says Schuurman. “Two hundred forty nine containers are packed and ready to be shipped, and these belong to 17 different traders from the Sava region [in Madagascar]: they includes several new traders. The 249 containers appear to be in accordance with the regulation 38244, which permitted export before 30 November 2009 i.e. supposedly a tax of 72 million Malagasy Ariary per container was paid on these containers before the end November deadline.”
Conservationists fear that if the shipment makes it to market it will spur further illegal deforestation in protected areas across the island.
The logging crisis began in March of 2009 when destabilization following a government coup allowed loggers to enter several of Madagascar’s world-renowned parks and illegally log rosewood and other valuable trees. Tens of thousands of hectares were logged in Madagascar’s most biodiverse rainforests, which also sparked a rise in bushmeat trafficking of lemurs.
Since the coup, donor nations have drastically cut their aid to Madagascar halting the work of environmental and social international NGOs on the island.
At a loss for funds from abroad, the transitional government has turned to the illegal trade in rosewood from its national parks to retain its grip on power.
The French government, which supports the transitional government under Andry Rajoelina, “shows an obvious willingness to help the current Malagasy government export the rosewood,” Schuurman says, adding that “officially, France wants to appear as ‘green’ as possible, or even as a green leader or responsible country in the face of climate change.”
The issue has made little appearance in the French Press, according to Schuurman.
“There has been an article in a local newspaper in Southern France about a Delmas ship in Madagascar,” he explains, “but those of us campaigning against the illegal logging of rosewood in Madagascar and its export from the country, have been having a rough time trying to bring the information [regarding] the rosewood to the attention of the French media”.
The mainstream media worldwide has largely been silent on the crisis as well even though it threatens Madagascar’s rainforest, people, and wildlife, most of which is unique to the island.
The shipment is expected to leave the port of Vohemar in Madagascar on March 16-17th. Schuurman says that the ship is likely bound for China, which doesn’t have regulations like Europe and the US against trading in illegal logged woods.