The fight is on to end illegal logging in the uniquely biodiverse ancient forests of Madagascar. Following a military coup in March 2009, Madagascar’s formerly protected national parks have been pillaged for precious hardwoods. The illegal loggers were acting with the tacit support of the interim government, which formally sanctioned timber exports at the end of 2009. Tens of thousands of hectares have been affected, spurring a rise in the bushmeat trade which has seen many rare lemurs slaughtered for restaurants. Locals who attempted to stop the plunder were intimidated and in some cases beaten.
The start of 2010 saw national and international pressure intensify on the Madagascar Government. Growing criticism of rosewood trafficking included an email campaign by Ecological Internet resulting in thousands of messages of protest, and public appeals by Global Witness and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) to the governments of France and Madagascar.
Then on 24 March, the Government reinstated the ban on rosewood logging and exports. Environmental campaigners cautiously welcomed the move. ‘There is still a lot to do… but we have succeeded on the first step,’ commented Lucienne Wilmé, a French scientist who has been tracking the rosewood trade.
But questions remain as to whether the interim government has the will to effectively implement and enforce the moratorium. Some prominent advisers to the administration have been linked to the timber trade – and campaigners remain concerned that the moratorium is little more than a PR stunt.
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