Greater protection for the world's rosewoods
“Efforts to halt the unsustainable rosewood trade just received a major boost. By listing the entire genus, all Dalbergia species – including those in high demand – will finally receive the protection needed to avoid further local and regional extinction,” said Vanessa Dick, WWF-US Timber Policy expert.
“This inclusive listing promotes a practical approach that avoids issues in species identification that previously hindered effective implementation,” added Dick.
‘Rosewood’ is an imprecise trade term associated with a wide range of richly hued, and often fragrant, tropical hardwoods. Most commonly equated with Dalbergia and Pterocarpus species, rosewood is primarily found in South and Southeast Asia, West and East Africa, and Latin America.
Rosewood has traditionally been used to make highly prized furniture in China and neighbouring countries. Like so many other wildlife products, this was once the exclusive reserve of a tiny elite but now the successful middle class aspires to such trappings of wealth, generating unsustainable demand.
Already over-exploitation of Dalbergia species has led to local or even regional commercial extinctions, as well as a shift to Pterocarpus species, which makes the inclusion of both on Appendix II so important.
But this species-specific approach has led to many enforcement challenges, as customs agents are unable to differentiate species that are listed on CITES from those that are not at the point of entry, instead having to rely on laboratory tests, which are impractical for efficient implementation.
Meanwhile, in another big win, the European Union and Gabon proposals to list Bubingas – another group of species emerging in the rosewood trade – on Appendix II was also accepted again with no exemption for finished products.
And a whole raft of countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, European Union, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo – were also successful in their proposal to list Kosso, or African rosewood on Appendix II, again with no exemption for finished products.
Thailand's proposal for CITES to remove the finished products exemption for Siamese rosewood was also accepted.
The inclusion of timber species and genus in the CITES CoP discussions is a recent phenomenon, but one that has already secured protection for a species of ebony and rosewood trees from Madagascar as well as Indochinese rosewood.
With today’s wins, CoP17 will expand the number of timber species under protection as well as close some existing loopholes. WWF was at the heart of the debate, working to ensure the best possible outcome.