The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has just confirmed the suspension of trade in rosewood in 16 African countries. The plundering of rosewood is endangering the survival of the species in the face of booming Chinese demand for luxury furniture.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) responds to the grievances of African countries against the plunder of forest resources. Aware of the powerlessness of permits in the face of the illegal trade in rosewood, several West African states have asked Cites to take an “exceptional” measure. The organisation responded favourably. In a decision published on 8 June 2022, the Cites secretariat banned rosewood exports to 16 West African countries until further notice.
Before taking this decision, the world’s wildlife trade watchdog had set a one-month deadline on 28 March for all countries in the rosewood range to demonstrate that their trade is not detrimental to the survival of the species, or to stop it. But the pledges given in return by these countries were not considered convincing.
Some countries flout the Cites decision
The Cites decision was endorsed by Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and even Cameroon (a Central African country that is also part of the rosewood range), on the other hand, want to continue to exploit their stocks, although they have not provided the justifications required by the Cites. The Central African Republic, Chad and Togo are ignoring the global watchdog’s formal notice.
Rosewood used to come mainly from Southeast Asia, but with these forests saturated, Chinese traders have turned to West Africa, particularly Mali, which is threatened by insecurity marked by two coups since 2020. According to a report published on 8 June 2022 by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), China imported 220,000 trees or 148,000 tonnes of a type of rosewood known as “kosso” from Mali between May 2020 and March 2022. This import was in violation of the government’s ban on the harvesting and marketing of rosewood.