Madagascar’s forests plundered for rare rosewood

Rosewood traders turn up in villages on the Masoala peninsula with cash and rice. They want local people to help them find precious rosewood trees in the dense forest, and then to haul the heavy logs out.

The illegal trade is irresistible to poor communities. Local people used to make money from tourists who came to see the lemurs – primates found only in Madagascar.

This was a national industry worth more than $400m (£256m). But last year’s military-sponsored change of government has frightened off all but the most intrepid international travellers.

In March 2009, Marc Ravalomanana was forced into exile and replaced as president by Andry Rajoelina, a 36-year-old former mayor of the capital, Antananarivo.

The international community deemed this a coup and refused to recognise the new regime. Large donors like the World Bank, the European Union and the United States withdrew all but humanitarian aid from President Rajoelina’s government.

This has had a dramatic impact as more than half of Madagascar’s budget had come from international donors.

Illegal logging on the rise

Since the political crisis began, the forests of Madagascar have been plundered. In 2009, loggers took an estimated 100,000 rosewood and ebony trees from the national parks of north-east Madagascar.

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