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Million-dollar beds fuel illegal logging

A new report has concluded that a combination of a huge rise in demand from China and political instability in Madagascar are fuelling illegal logging activities which in turn threaten wildlife and timber species in the African nation.

The report, conducted by global witness and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), was compiled from interviews with loggers, traders and government agencies in Madagascar. Their discovery that hardwoods illegally felled in Madagascar were used to make exotic beds which sell for up to $1million was announced to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Japan.

Conservation groups have previously warned that the political unrest in Madagascar could lead to this kind of illegal activity flourishing, and eventually threatening wildlife in the country. The three species of wood concerned which are being felled illegally are ebony, rosewood and pallisander – the cutting down of any trees of these types is illegal – but the government has issued cheap permits for traders to export stockpiles of the wood, which has in turn led to further illegal ‘replenishment’ of the stockpiles.

EIA and Global witness gathered most of their information from loggers and traders, who were openly interviewed and seems not at all concerned with keeping their activities under wraps. The two organisations then went undercover in China to see where the wood eventually finished, and what it was used for. In China, the wood is mainly used in reproduction furniture which can reach incredible prices – such as the $1million bed.

It is estimated that 98 per cent of the illegally felled timber ended up in China, with the rest heading to the US and EU. A recently passed law in the US outlawing the import of illegally-sourced timber has deterred many potential buyers, but it also led to a raid on the famous Gibson guitar factory over allegedly illegal rosewood.

The government in Madagascar has acknowledged the report’s finding, but has insisted that things are changing. The last permit to export wood stockpiles was issued a year ago.

The report further highlights the need for ethically-sourced timber supplies to satisfy global demand so that endangered species of tree in natural habitats such as Madagascar can be protected for the future. To find out more on our ethical forestry investment, click here.

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