Some 80% of Madagascar’s unique biodiversity depends on forest ecosystems, yet deforestation on the island continues unchecked. Politicians have influenced trading in precious timber since the 1980s, with the sourcing of protected Malagasy rosewood peaking during the country’s 2009–13 political crisis. As we approach the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) COP18 summit in Sri Lanka in May, we urge Madagascar’s new president, Andry Rajoelina, to avoid measures that could put the last 15% of the country’s original natural forests at risk.
Following pressure by the international community and the World Bank, the Malagasy government has confiscated and stockpiled precious timber since 2013. All Malagasy species of rosewood (Dalbergia spp.) and ebony (Diospyros spp.) are now listed under CITES Appendix II — that is, species that could become endangered if trade is not controlled. However, Madagascar’s new government and the World Bank intend to sell off these stocks, which could spur demand for more — as happened with elephant ivory.
We suggest that all Dalbergia and Diospyros species from Madagascar be urgently raised to CITES Appendix I, which demands protection for endangered species. With the suite of tools currently available under the CITES Convention, this could be the only way to reduce incentives for traffickers and prevent history from repeating itself.
Nature 565, 567 (2019)