Loggers and wildlife traders continue to violate Madagascar's biodiversity rich rainforests including protected areas. In March of this year controversy surrounding leasing of agricultural land resulted in a military coup. In the chaos that ensued, armed gangs funded by Chinese traders entered Madagascar’s Marojejy and Masoala National Parks, two world-renowned World Heritage Sites, and logged rosewood, ebonies, and other valuable hardwoods. NGOs operating in Madagascar report continued armed, open and organized plundering of precious wood from several natural forests, including these parks.
Selective logging of precious old forest wood in Madagascar, such as rosewood and ebony, is known to be accompanied by increases in fire and hunting. There has been an intensified smuggling of wildlife species, especially reptiles such as tortoises, to the national and international markets. There has also been a proliferation of destructive practices such as illegal mining and slash-and-burn agriculture within protected and environmentally sensitive areas.
Only about 10% of Madagascar's marvelously rich and biodiverse rainforests, including about 100 species of lemurs, remain fully intact and standing. The vast majority of Malagasy people live in extreme poverty, malnutrition and even starvation. Madagascar's biodiversity is essential to the daily lives of the rural majority of the population, providing them with water, food and energy. These natural resources also underpin the agriculture, fisheries and tourism sectors. Illegal logging of precious woods has angered local communities by trampling on their beliefs and taboo.
Madagascar's rainforests are nearly gone, and selective logging is finishing what remains. Trade in Madagascar's rapidly dwindling precious rosewood and ebony hardwoods do not receive any protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Extending CITES regulation to these species may be the only way to reduce unsustainable exploitation of precious wood in Madagascar. Otherwise, island wide ecological and social collapse appears inevitable. The situation highlights the importance of working to end protect and restore old forest logging globally, and continuing to confront those suggesting Sustainable Forest Management -- legal, certified or illegal -- is possible in primary forests. Old forests are life.
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