Madagascar forests in danger from illegal logging
The protected forests on the African island of Madagascar are in danger from the illegal logging of rosewood. But many residents rely on the work for survival in one of the world’s most impoverished nations.
The criminal climate is created by the “rosewood mafia” who exploit the island’s forests and people, according to National Geographic. The end result often puts the wood in people’s homes all over the world after they purchase expensive furniture and guitars made from the precious resource smuggled from Madagascar’s forests.
One of the most traveled routes takes the wood from the eastern slopes of the Masoala peninsula in Madagascar to Xianyou, China, passing through Zanzibar in Tanzania, Mombasa in Kenya and Hong Kong, according to a report published in The Guardian. Chinese buyers hoping to create furniture similar to that from the Ming and Qing period of the 1600s adore the wood, prized for its red color, because of its incredible density. In 2012 China officially imported 757,000 cubic metres of rosewood, according to The Guardian.
Environmentalists argue the logging of the rosewood has a negative impact on the ecosystem. But villagers heavily rely on rosewood logging for a living. The World Bank’s poverty assessment estimates that 70% of Madagascar’s population can be defined as “being poor” and 59% as being “extremely poor.”
There was a resurgence of the illegal logging in Madagascar after a change of government in 2009. When the country’s new president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, gained power last February, he promised to take control of the battle against rosewood trafficking. But residents are still waiting. Previously, illegal trade of rosewood spiked during his five years as finance minister. Previous bans proved ineffective.
From Madagascar to China, French photographer Michael Zumstein traced the roots of the trafficking of Bolabola rosewood, or “bola bola” as it is known by local residents.