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Precious Trees Pay Off - But Who Pays? An Update
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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#): 1588
Shelving Location: Papers & Articles: Natural History: Conservation
Estimated Value: £1.00
Purchase Date: 9 December 2009
Purchased From: Log In to view this
Price Paid: Log In to view this

Precious Trees Pay Off - But Who Pays? An Update

Unpublished (2009).

A poster-format overview of the situation of illegal logging of rosewood in northeast Madagascar. This updated edition of an earlier release is dated 9 December 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 permitted exportation of illegally-logged rosewood, thereby effectively legalizing illegality. Such contradictions with regards to the exploitation of precious timber in Madagascar are not new: they can be traced back over decades, for example extraction of wood from the Zombitse protected area (pp. 145-148 Nicoll & Langrand1989). The current frenzy of illegal rosewood extraction in north-eastern Madagascar has been erratically publicized since April 2009, but only since October has more detailed information been released. 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 need to:
  • Understand the dynamics of how Madagascar's forests have been affected by political events.
  • Understand why illegal timber extraction escalated so dramatically during a period when conservation efforts have never been so crucial.
  • Find a solution with regards to what should be done with the remaining seized logs to prevent future logging.


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. Patel 2007, Débois 2009, Schuurman 2009, Schuurman and Lowry 2009).

From November 2009 we also searched the Antalaha region for log depots using the GeoEye-1 high-resolution satellite. The images ordered have a spatial resolution of 50cm enabling the detection of stacked timber as well as of trucks, canoes and boats used to transport logs.


  • Marojejy National Park was heavily impacted by the illegal logging as early as January 2009. This also applies to Masoala National Park and Makira Natural Park (Figures 1, 2).
  • Thousands of poorly paid workers have been involved in the logging within these parks and reserves (Débois 2009), but only a few dozen persons are responsible for exporting the logs to China (Table 1).
  • At least 598 containers of rosewood were exported from Vohemar to China in late April 2009 and a minimum of 314 containers have been shipped from Toamasina since March (Table 1, Schuurman and Lowry 2009).
  • Another 55 containers have been exported in October (Table 1) and 170 containers on 04 December.
  • The government seized 91 containers of rosewood in October 2009 but no information has since been released concerning the confiscated timber.
  • The minimum number of rosewood trees cut in the north-eastern protected areas is estimated at between 22,875 and 45,750 for Marojejy National Park and the northern sector of Masoala National Park, and an estimated minimum of 7,750 and 15,500 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. 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 4,575 and 15,250 hectares, while illegal logging has affected between 1,550 and 5,200 hectares in Makira Natural Park and southern Masoala National Park (Table 2).
  • With satellite images obtained on 02 December 2009, we were able to locate several depots of rosewood (Figure 3), even though export of rosewood after 30 November 2009 is forbidden.
  • The decree issued on 21 September 2009 permitting the exporting of 25 containers by each of the 13 established timber traders, encouraged more people to join the trade of precious timber, particularly from Antananarivo (Table 3).

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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