On the way back from Madagascar in October, I met a Swiss geologist who referred me to an open-access journal called Madagascar Conservation and Development. This month’s editorial describes how traders have already smuggled the stocks of rosewood out of the country.
“During the last year, a new phenomenon has emerged: inventoried rosewood logs (estimated worth ranges between US$500 million and 5 billion) have slowly but regularly been ferreted out of the depots they were stored in. During the early months of 2013, traffickers from Maroantsetra visited the Masoala peninsula and generously offered 1 million MGA per household to turn a blind eye regarding any rosewood. Simultaneously, large vessels positioned just too far to be seen from any shore, were collecting logs transferred to them at night in smaller boats. Encouraged by the incredulous ineptitude on the part of the local legal authorities, this process has been ongoing, even during daylight hours, with the ‘mother ships’ eventually even clearly visible from the shores. The timber stocks in the known depots have almost been completely cleared out by now.”
The authors ask, If all the rosewood has actually been shipped out of the country, why is the World Bank trying to find a legal solution to dispose of the stocks? Are NGOs pushing to legalize sales of the rosewood through lobbying for CITES permits?
The only thing that is clear is that nothing is clear. That is the point. The editorial concludes that in the absence of transparency, accountability and good governance, “…for the people of Madagascar, biodiversity is more of a curse than a blessing”.