Conservation Groups Defend Madagascar's Forests

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Malagasy Government's Decree for Precious Wood Export will Unleash Environmental Pillaging

Today, at the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Annual Conference, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) joined leading conservation organizations and scientists in issuing the following letter, which urges the government of Madagascar to protect its natural resources:

Recently Madagascar's transitional government issued two contradictory decrees: first, the exploitation of all precious woods was made illegal, but then a second allowed the export of hundreds of shipping containers packed with this illegally harvested wood. Madagascar's forests have long suffered from the abusive exploitation of precious woods, most particularly rosewoods and ebonies, but the country's recent political problems have resulted in a dramatic increase in their exploitation. This activity now represents a serious threat to those who rely on the forest for goods and services and for the country's rich, unique and highly endangered flora and fauna.

Precious woods are being extracted from forests by roving and sometimes violent gangs of lumbermen and sold to a few powerful businessmen for export. Madagascar has 47 species of rosewood and over 100 ebony species that occur nowhere else, and their exploitation is pushing some to the brink of extinction. Those exploiting the trees are also trapping endangered lemurs for food, and the forests themselves are being degraded as trees are felled, processed and dragged to adjacent rivers or roads for transport to the coast. No forest that contains precious woods is safe, and the country's most prestigious nature reserves and favoured tourist destinations, such as the Marojejy and Masoala World Heritage Sites and the Mananara Biosphere Reserve, have been the focus of intensive exploitation. Currently thousands of rosewood and ebony logs, none of them legally exploited, are stored in Madagascar's east coast ports, Vohémar, Antalaha, and Toamasina. The most recent decree will allow their export and surely encourage a further wave of environmental pillaging.

Malagasy civil society, conservation and development organisations and the international community are united in lamenting the issue of the most recent decree, in fearing its consequences and in questioning its legitimacy. Consumers of rosewood and ebony products are asked to check their origin, and boycott those made of Malagasy wood.

AZA Association of Zoos and Aquariums
CAS California Academy of Science
CI Conservation International
DWCT Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
EAZA European Association of Zoos and Aquaria
ICTE Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments
MBG Missouri Botanical Garden
MFG Madagascar Fauna Group
The Field Museum, Chicago
Dr Claire Kremen, University of California, Berkeley
Dean Keith Gilless, University of California, Berkeley
Robert Douglas Stone, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
WASA World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
WCS Wildlife Conservation Society
WWF World Wide Fund for Nature
Zoo Zürich

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