Not So Rosy: Time To Halt Trafficking Of Coveted Tropical Timber

The massive illegal harvesting of rosewood threatens vulnerable communities and some of the planet's rarest wildlife. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

By UN Environment

The multipurpose rosewood tree is famed for its beautiful smelling and sturdy ruby-colored wood used in the manufacture of furniture, walking canes, boats, musical instruments, agricultural tools, and religious artifacts.

The tree species, whose name is a generic one for several dark-red hardwood species found in tropical regions across the globe, fetches very high prices because it’s strong, heavy, has a beautiful red hue and takes well to polishing.

Ironically, these properties which endear it to so many appear to be its Achilles heel. The tree which grows between three to four feet annually, and to a maximum height of about 100 feet, is on the verge of extinction in some parts of the world. It is also the world’s most trafficked wildlife product with a trade value that’s higher than elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts combined.

Cognizant of this threat to biodiversity in 2013, delegates from 170 countries agreed to include over 40 rosewood species from various countries in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Appendix II, meaning that international trade in their timber would be more strictly regulated.

However, although many countries had laws protecting the biological genus known as Dalbergia, smuggling was causing so much deforestation that the Convention agreed, in December 2016, to protect every species of the tree.

From Guatemala to Madagascar to Thailand to Zambia, rosewoods have been targeted by timber traffickers who seek to profit especially from its growing demand in China.

“China imports large amounts of dark-red tropical hardwood species in the form of logs to make hongmu (literally, red wood) antique furniture. Read more>>

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