Illegal export of species on rise amid Madagascar crisis

10:45, May 04, 2011      

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Since the outbreak of the Madagascan political crisis in December 2008, the underground illegal exploitation of a number of the country's natural resources has increased.

Despite the decision in March last year by the country's Highest Transitional Authority (HAT) to ban the cutting and trading of rosewood, the exploitation of this precious wood has been frequently reported.

The rosewood is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the category of the species that risk being extinct and therefore require to be protected.

In mid-April, about 30 tons of rosewood were seized on board two lorries in the village of Antalaha, in the northwestern coast of this Indian Ocean island.

It's within this region where there are many rosewood trees, especially in the Masoala national park.

Early in the month of April, 824 pieces of another precious wood were seized at Fort-Dauphin in the extreme southern parts of the country. At the same time, about 250 containers of rosewood were confiscated at Majunga port in the western part of Madagascar because the owners did not have export licences.

Still in the environmental sector, the illegal poaching of lemurs (monkey like animals) and other endangered animal species has increased at an alarming rate in the last few months.

A total of 300 rare species turtles from Madagascar were seized in Malaysia last year. Researchers have warned that some of these turtles could be extinct in the next 20 years if their consumption and illegal trading continues.

The principle markets for these turtles are the U.S., Europe and Asia and they mostly go through Bangkok, Thailand.

These turtles, which are classified in the category of endangered species on IUCN's red list, are also categorized in Annex 1 of the list of the Convention on Trading in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES) and their sale is strictly prohibited.

The Madagascan lemurs also face extinction. Their meat is a delicacy especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

A plate of lemur meat is usually sold at a price of between 6, 000 ariary (30 U. S. dollars) to 10,000 ariary (50 dollars). In 2010 alone, close to 3,000 lemurs are reported to have been killed for food.

In the mining sector, there have been reports of continued illegal mining of gold and other precious metals.

Recently, the national police seized 2 kg of gold that were being transported along Antananarivo-Majunga road. This gold is reported to have come from the western town of Maevatanana which has huge gold deposits.

Elsewhere, it has also been reported that tons of crystal rock have always been transported from the north-eastern town of Maroantsetra to the port of Toamasina and there are no measures that have been taken to protect the environment.

Economic experts have indicated that the outbreak of the political crisis in 2008 encouraged this illegal exploitation of the country's natural resources.

"Poverty and the high cost of living for most households has also made most people to look for the easier ways of making money, sometimes endangering their own lives," the experts have pointed out.

According to the official figures from the World Bank, Madagascar recorded 228,000 direct job losses in the year 2010.

Elsewhere, the price of most basic products has increased by 12 percent in the last one year hence making life difficult for most people.

Source: Xinhua
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