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Authors: Lucienne Wilmé, Derek Schuurman, Porter P. Lowry II, and Peter H. Raven.
Language: English
No. of Pages: 1
Dimensions: 297mm x 420mm x 1mm

Item Identification Code (UID#): 1586
Shelving Location: Papers & Articles: Natural History: Conservation
Estimated Value: £1.00
Purchase Date: 22 October 2009
Purchased From: Log In to view this
Price Paid: Log In to view this

Precious Trees Pay Off - But Who Pays?

Unpublished (2009).

A poster-format overview of the situation of illegal logging of rosewood in northeast Madagascar, released on 22 October 2009.

Introduction and History

Natural resources are inevitably placed at risk during political turmoil, social conflict and war. The political fallout in Madagascar during 2009 has resulted in its wildlife and flora suffering to an unprecedented extent. A recent government decree permits exportation of illegally-logged rosewood, thereby effectively legalizing illegality. Such contradictions connected with the exploitation of precious timber in Madagascar are nothing new: they can be traced back to previous events of decades ago, for example extraction of wood from the Zombitse protected area (pp. 145-148 Nicoll & Langrand 1989). The current frenzy of illegal rosewood extraction in north-eastern Madagascar has been erratically publicized since April 2009, and since October more detailed information has been revealed. Well in excess of 500 containers of rosewood were exported to China in late April 2009 (Débois 2009) and a recent survey conducted by Global Witness shows that this wood was sourced from protected areas (Lough 2009).


To prevent future forest destruction we must:
  • Understand the dynamics of how Madagascar's forests have been impacted by political events.
  • Understand why illegal timber extraction escalated so dramatically during a period when conservation efforts have never been as crucial.


Events during Madagascar's 2009 political turmoil progressed at great speed. Simultaneously, rampant illegal logging spread through officially protected north-eastern forests. People resident there collected information by:
  • counting the trucks transporting rosewood;
  • counting the rosewood logs in open depots, at confluences or in estuaries of rivers, as well as in towns, particularly north-eastern ports;
  • counting and photographing containers packed with rosewood.
Most of the information gathered, including data on thousands of individuals involved in the rosewood traffic, has been recently published in local and international newspapers (ex. Débois 2009, Schuurman 2009). Because new depots will without doubt be discovered or named in the near future, figures provided on this poster are conservative, minimum estimates. The densities at which exploitable rosewood remains in the northeastern parks and reserves is poorly documented, but has recently been evaluated at no more than 5 trees per hectare, or as few as 1 tree per hectare. Where rosewood exploitation has already occurred, density is even less (Stasse 2002).


  • Marojejy National Park was heavily impacted by the illegal logging as early as January 2009. The same applies to Masoala National Park and Makira Natural Park (Figure 1).
  • Thousands of poorly paid workers have been involved with the logging in these parks and reserves (Débois 2009), but only a few dozen persons are responsible for exporting the logs to China (Table 1).
  • At least 571 containers of rosewood were exported from Vohemar to China in late April 2009 and a minimum of 300 containers have been shipped from Toamasina since March (Table 2).
  • The government seized 91 containers of rosewood in October 2009.
  • A minimum of 271 containers of rosewood await export in Vohemar.
  • The minimum number of rosewood trees cut in the north-eastern protected areas is estimated at between 23,325 and 46,650 for Marojejy National Park and the northern sector of Masoala National Park, and an estimated minimum of 7,500 and 15,550 from Makira Natural Park and the southern sector of Masoala National Park (Table 2).
  • The rosewood logs, or 'bola-bola‘, are painstakingly carried by astonishingly poorly paid workers to the nearest river, where they are bound together with lighter logs and floated downstream (Figure 2). To float one rosewood log downstream, four or five lighter trees must therefore be cut down within a park or reserve.
  • With an optimal density of 5 exploitable rosewood trees per hectare in northern Madagascar, the total area impacted in Marojejy and northern Masoala is estimated at between 4,665 and 9,330 hectares, while illegal logging has affected between 1,500 ha in Makira Natural Park and 5,000 ha in southern Masoala National Park (Table 2).

Condition of Item

Very good.

Refer to the glossary for definitions of terms used to describe the condition of items.



This item was kindly donated to the Madagascar Library collection by Derek Schuurman.
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