Illegally Harvesting Madagascar’s Rosewood Trees

Illegal harvesting of Madagascar’s rosewood trees is occurring unchecked because the government is in turmoil according to a report in the New York Times. I’ve walked in these forests and the report offers one more disappointing example of the consequences of bad governance, poverty and avarice in Africa.

The island nation off East Africa is an ecological treasure perhaps unsurpassed in the world. Animals, insects, flora and fauna flourish unlike anywhere else. Civil instability has led to a failure of governance. No one controls the reins of government and, therefore, no regulatory agency can halt the illegal harvesting of Madagascar’s ecologically unique forests and make the order stick.

Poverty makes the valuable trees easy picking for local people who profit little from the cutting, but in the absence of anything better their share is enough incentive to destroy the forests. Unprincipled buyers of the illegally harvested wood add to the problem. For several years cutting of exotic woods has been monitored and its traffic controlled. This has made more end-users sensitive to the problem of endangered forests but it hasn’t resulted in stewardship of Madagascar’s rosewood.

Saving a forest is not as emotionally compelling as saving endangered animals and preserving Madagascar’s forests  hasn’t been given the same degree of attention as the Brazilian and Indonesian rain forests. It’s a smaller, relatively isolated land area. But the devastation is no less important or permanent.

If its forests are destroyed, the ecological chain that makes Madagascar such a unique and rich trove of natural treasure will be damaged perhaps beyond recovery. Another casualty of Africa’s struggle with governance.

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