World`s valuable timbers protected against illegal trade



Posted on 13 March 2013  | 
Madagascar`s famous rosewood
© WWF/Chris Maluszynski Enlarge
Precious ebony and rosewood timbers have secured protection by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in recognition of possible extinction due to illegal logging and international trade.

Both kinds of timber are exported for use in making musical instruments, furniture and decorative items, such as chess pieces, due to their unusual heartwood.

The rich red colour of rosewood, as well as the hardness and black colour of ebony, mean that they have always been highly prized. Both take a long time to grow and mature, making them vulnerable to unsustainable harvesting because it takes a long time to replace logged trees.

Demand for these valuable timbers has grown significantly in recent years, particularly in Asia. This has led to dangerous levels of illegal logging resulting in serious forest degradation across these countries.

Governments meeting in Bangkok, Thailand agreed to regulate trade to help manage rosewood from Madagascar, Latin America and Indo-China, and ebony from Madagascar, to ensure that the trade in these species is managed sustainably.

“This is a good decision by the governments of CITES and we hope that this will ensure the future of these precious trees” said Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF`s Policy Analyst, International Wildlife Trade.


Madagascar, famous for unique animals like lemurs, also has kinds of ebony and rosewood that are not found anywhere else. The populations of both are decreasing due to increased amounts of logging even with a current ban on export.

Thailand sought protection for one of its rosewood that occurs there and in neighbouring countries. This proposal received warm support from the meeting, especially from other countries with rosewood of their own.

“The special characteristics of rosewood and ebony heartwood are part of the trees’ natural defence against insects and disease.”

“It seems, though, that this defence mechanism puts them more at risk from humans. We are happy that trade will now be regulated so these specialty woods can be enjoyed into the future,” said Dr O Criodain.
Madagascar`s famous rosewood
© WWF/Chris Maluszynski Enlarge
Sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties 3 - 14 March 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand
© CITES Enlarge

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