afrol News, 17 January - Since Madagascar's 2009 coup, illegal logging of precious rosewood in the island's protected forests has exploded. A promise by coup President Andry Rajoelina to act to stop this logging has not been held, environmentalists say.
Until the 2009, Madagascar saw large improvements in the management of its unique forests, with large areas being protected and strict enforcement of logging restrictions. After Mr Rajoelina came to power and Madagascar was internationally isolated, illegal logging and devastation of protected areas saw a new boom.
Malagasy and international environmentalist groups since then have tried to put pressure on President Rajoelina. In a meeting in October last year, the Mr Rajoelina promised to make an official declaration to stop all illegal logging of precious woods. Further, he promised resources would be made available to support local authorities to implement appropriate management plans to secure the forests in the future.
"However, no such public declaration has been made to date, and illegal logging continues to devastate the island's precious and fragile environment," according to the environmentalist group WWF.
"Andry Rajoelina told us he wanted to stop illegal logging. He also said he wanted to call on countries who import the timber, and especially China, not to buy rosewood products anymore and is ready to co-finance actions to stop illegal logging with government funds," says Niall O'Connor, Regional Representative of WWF Madagascar.
"Now is the time for action. WWF urges him and the government to deliver what they promised," Mr O'Connor added. The environmentalist had presented the Malagasy government with 5,000 signatures from a petition to stop illegal logging of precious woods in Madagascar.
More than 20,000 hectares of forests, inside protected areas, have been dev
astated following political turmoil in 2009, with more than 100,000 precious wood trees illegally felled in some of the richest and most diverse forests on the planet.
A further estimated half a million more trees have been cut, to float the heavy logs downstream, causing extensive damage and species loss.
The illegal activity destroys forests and the services they provide to local communities. It also affects the tourism industry that traditionally benefited these parts of the island's north eastern humid forests and which has provided local people with jobs and a regular income in the past.
A ban on rosewood export has recently been published in Madagascar. But, according to the latest reports from WWF, the cutting of precious woods in north-eastern Madagascar has not yet stopped. Exports have decreased, but exploiters are stock piling wood in the hope of an exceptional export authorisation to be made in the future.
These illegal activities in Madagascar's national parks bring even more problems with them. A recent field visit conducted by Missouri Botanical Garden revealed that up to 10,000 people are currently living inside Masoala National Park.
The rosewood trafficking, coupled with the government weakness to ban it, initiated and extended drastically the traffic of natural resources in Madagascar. Countless endemic species such as tortoises and lemurs are heavily exploited these days.
Furthermore countless numbers of lemurs and other bush meat have been butchered and eaten by loggers during their stay in the parks, according to reports from local environmentalists.
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