They are at it again: Madagascar's corrupt government is secretly trying to circumvent their own illegal log export ban, using a different French shipping company to transport timbers hacked from protected rainforests to China, to be processed for European and United States' inequitable and ecocidal over-consumption. This time French La Ligne Scandinave Agency Maritime (SEAL/PIL) shipping company is the one transporting wood, using the same excuse used previously by others, that they have "received orders from the Government of Madagascar, so they were obliged to execute". The logs left Madagascar on the ship Terra Bonna earlier this month. There are a further 10,000 tons of already illegally logged rosewood – some 1,500 containers - that will almost certainly be exported as 'exceptions' and 'personal authorizations’ to the ban. And given the government’s failure to live up to its word, expect logging of Madagascar's biodiversity rich rainforest National Parks to resume and escalate.
Madagascar's rainforest parks were pillaged in the aftermath of the March 2009 coup, after which reserves were ravaged by illegal loggers. Armed bands, financed by foreign timber traders in collusion with local and national officials, went into Marojejy and Masoala national parks, harvesting valuable hardwoods including rosewood and ebonies. All told, logging affected 27,000-40,000 acres of protected rainforest, in a country already 90% deforested. More than $200 million worth of timber was cut. In March, after months of international protest, a rosewood shipment finally left Madagascar. This caused even a further intense international outcry and led Interim President Rajoelina to issue a two-year moratorium on timber shipments.
Ecological Internet has previously stopped Delmas of France from shipping illegal rosewood, and was instrumental in achieving the two-year moratorium on timber which appears now to be little more than a public relations ploy by a corrupt post-coup interim government. With Sunday's shipment by SEAL/PIL of 79 containers of rosewood, it is now clear the government does not intend to maintain the ban. SEAL has been asked by local campaigners to stop abetting the illegal timber trade by transporting rosewood. They responded by saying they had the authorization of the Minister of Environment and Forests, despite being presented with clear evidence that the merchandise they are transporting is of illegal origin.
Given widespread corruption and government involvement in the logging of rainforest protected areas, we have identified shipping companies as the best pressure point. SEAL has loaded rosewood for illegal export previously, including at least 526 tons in 2009. A group of some two dozen “timber mafia” have and continue to make countless millions of US$ from a completely illegal trade in precious timber, while 19 million of their countrypersons remain in abject poverty. Their logging degrades and ultimately destroys the forests, many of which are National Parks and/or World Heritage Sites, ruins watersheds, has led to disintegration of any kind of order in society, and has had a multitude of other negative consequences for Madagascar.
The vast majority of precious woods that leave Madagascar are bound for a few cities in Southern China: Hong Kong, Dalian, Shanghai, Ganzhou. Between 1998 and 2008, Chinese imports of tropical wood nearly quadrupled, to 45 million cubic meters annually, making it by far the world's largest consumer of tropical timber. Over half of these imports are thought to be sourced illegally. Much of this goes to make wood products that will eventually be sold in Europe and the United States. The situation clearly demonstrates that in an era of hyper-capitalism and growth in population, economy and consumption; no rainforests are truly protected for long (if ever). We must remain vigilante and go after these root causes of ecocide.
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Resource anarchy continues to reign post-coup in Madagascar's rainforests. This picture shows the French shipping industry is facilitating the destruction of Madagascar's rainforests. Photo used with permission from Mongbabay.com.
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