Madagascar: Rosewood thieves and political instability shuts down Marojejy National Park

“It is with great sadness that we report the temporary closure of
Marojejy National Park to tourism,” stated the marojejy.com web site.
“The closure was deemed necessary by park management due to the
lawlessness that has descended over the SAVA region during this time
of political unrest in Madagascar, and the resultant looting and
destruction which is currently occurring within the park.

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In particular, gangs of armed men (led primarily by foreign profiteersin conjunction with the rich local mafia) are plundering therainforests of Marojejy for the extremely valuable rosewood that growsthere.” Illegal logging of rosewood, ebonies, and other hardwoods hasemerged as one of the primary drivers of forest degradation innortheastern Madagascar in recent years but, as noted by http://marojejy.com the situation has beenexacerbated by the political crisis that has led rangers and park officialsin some areas to abandon their posts.

Timber poachers and other interests are now moving aggressively into
protected areas to take advantage of the opportunity according to a
local source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“Turmoil isgoing to last for months — no more rules, no more laws, no more policeor control, just weapons and people starved for money or by greed,”said the source. “2000 to 3000 people went to Masoala to harvestrosewood.” The source notes that poachers are coming in from the townof Antalaha on the side of Masoala, an expanse of rainforest renowned for its biological diversity, opposite from the big park headquarters. “The big businessmen are all in Antalaha. This is where the timber goes for export.”

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http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/03/090324-lemurs-looting-madagascar.html

With Madagascar’s government paralyzed after a recent coup, looters are invading the African island country’s protected wildlife sanctuaries, harvesting trees and threatening critically endangered lemurs and other species, conservationists said this week.

Marojejy National Park in northern Madagascar has been closed to tourism. In other parks, rangers are abandoning their posts, according to reports.

The trouble is linked to turmoil that culminated in the coup d’etat that ousted President Marc Ravalomanana last week.

Some protected conservation areas are being invaded by organized criminals intent on cutting down valuable rosewood trees and extracting other resources, according to conservationists in Madagascar.

The closure of Marojejy National Park was “deemed necessary by park management due to the lawlessness that has descended over the … region during this time of political unrest in Madagascar, and the resultant looting and destruction which is currently occurring within the park,” according to the park’s Web site.

“In particular, gangs of armed men (led primarily by foreign profiteers in conjunction with the rich local mafia) are plundering the rainforests of Marojejy for the extremely valuable rosewood that grows there,” the site continues.

“Most worrisome is the well-being of the highly endangered silky sifaka, a lemur found only in the rainforests of Marojejy and the surrounding area.”

The silky sifaka is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, meaning the animal is “considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.”

Logging Devastation

Cornell University Ph.D. candidate Erik Patel has been studying the silky sifaka since 2001.

“Illegal logging of precious wood has emerged as one of the most severe threats to Madagascar’s dwindling northeastern rainforests,” Patel said in an email.

Over the past few years, thousands of logs, worth millions of U.S. dollars, have been confiscated at the Madagascan ports of Vohémar, Antalaha, and Toamasina, he said.

“Most of this critically endangered rosewood and ebony is known to have come from Marojejy National Park and Masoala National Park,” Patel said.

In the face of rich, armed, and politically connected criminals, the parks simply lack the resources to stop this, Patel added.

“The impacts of such selective logging include violating local taboos as well as ecological consequences such as increased likehood of fire, invasive species, impaired habitat, and loss in genetic diversity.”

Patel said the January 2009 termination of the law prohibiting the export of rosewood and ebony is a key cause of the increased logging.

“The laws prohibiting such exportation must be reinstated as soon as possible,” he said.

“It is unprecedented for a national park in Madagacar to be closed to tourism because of illegal logging.”

Primatologist Mireya Mayor, who has done fieldwork in Marojejy, said, “I’m gutted and at a loss to describe how bad this situation is.” (See video of Mayor at work, below.)

Nancy Liz RaposaJune 2nd, 2009 at 7:17 pm

I visited Madagascar for the first time in June of 2007 and have been back 5 times since to photograph the various species of lemur. I truly can’t believe what is now happening there and hope that the current lawlessness that exists in Marojejy National Park will END. The Wildlife of Madagascar IS THE FUTURE for the MALAGASY! They need to rise up and STOP the CURRENT INSANITY before it is too late!

RAMANAMBITA Olivier TsiresyDecember 6th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I am from Madagascar, and I would like to share the latest publication on conservation and sustainable development in Madagascar, with articles on the current logging crisis and REDD.
The journal Madagascar Conservation & Development’s latest issue is available at
http://www.mwc-info.net/en/services/Journal_Pages/journa_MCD_ISSUE_4-2.html

Malagasy nationalDecember 17th, 2009 at 8:36 am

Marc Ravalomanana’s government allowed rosewood logging!!!

http://madagascar-tribune.com/Autorisation-d-exportation-a-l,10877.html

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