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Masoala rosewood Illegal logging, Madagascar


There is a booming trade in bois de rose, one of the world's rarest trees, even though the logging and export of rosewood from Madagascar is banned. This is a multimillion-dollar industry.

According to a report by Tamasin Ford in The Guardian (23 Dec. 2013), the final destination is China. This is the view of Guy Suzon Ramangason, director general of Madagascar National Parks.

"There is a network of mafiosi of bois de rose," he said. "Money in this type of network is very, very powerful." He said the wood was first shipped to intermediary countries, where false papers were drawn up legalising the cargo.

The precious bois de rose is rapidly vanishing from the island. In 2009, up to USD 500,000 worth of bois de rose was being shipped out of Madagascar each day. There are no figures for the levels it has reached today (in 2013) but it seems to be worse than in 2009.

The illegal logging and smuggling of bois de rose in the Masoala and Marojejy national parks in the country's north-east exploded after the coup in 2009. An investigation by two NGOs, Global Witness and the Washington-based Environmental Investigation Agency, documented the illegal harvesting and trafficking of the wood, destined mainly for China.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Masoala rosewood Illegal logging, Madagascar
State or province:Antsiranana
Location of conflict:Masoala National Park
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Timber

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In 2009 an estimated 52,000 tonnes of precious wood (from 100,000 rosewood and ebony trees) was logged in North -East Madagascar, originating from Masoala and Marojejy National Park.

At least 500,000 additional trees and many miles of vines were cut to make rafts to transport the heavy ebony and rosewood logs. Approximately 36,700 tonnes were shipped in 1,187 containers, almost all to China, for a total export sale price estimated at $ US 220 million. In the SAVA region, members of the timber syndicate pocketed 76 % of this whereas the State collected just $ US 15.3 million.

According to Global Witness and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a dozen private operators and three main companies have benefited from illegal logging in Masoala ; three banks also facilitated the illegal timber trade. China is one main destination.

Fraud is perpetrated by the syndicate and government administrators along every step in Madagascar’s precious timber trade in a coordinated effort to maximize profit and minimize taxes and fines. Poor governance and a lack of clarity in forest regulation have facilitated timber trafficking and undermined judicial control.

Project area:235,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project220,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:02/2009
Company names or state enterprises:GIBSON Guitar Corporation in Tennessee (USA) - The US government has settled its legal case against Gibson Guitar company over use of illegal timber from Madagascar in its instruments.
French company DELMAS - Of the three main companies that transported rosewood from Vohemar, the french company Delmas benefited most
United Africa Feeder Line (UAFL) and its subsidiary Spanfreight, based in Mauritius - UAFL and its susidiary Spanfreight shipped illegal rosewood from Madagascar
Safmarine, a division of the Danish company A.P. Moller-Maersk Group - Safmarine shipped rosewood from Madagascar
More than 40 Chinese Companies - China has always been the major buyer of Malagasy rosewood . In 2009, almost 99% of exports were shipped there.
Ets. RANJANORO - One of the three exporters who received the best return on their investment
Ets. BEZOKINY Christian Claude - One of the three exporters who received the best return on their investment
Ets. LAISOA Jean-Pierre - One of the three exporters who received the best return on their investment
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Water and Forests (MEF), Madagascar National Parks (MNP)
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Trade
Ministry of Justice
The Gendarmerie and Police
Direction of Compliance and Integrity Improvement (DCAI)
Task Force
Service des Eaux et Forêts (DREEF)
Circonscription de l’Environnement et des Forêts (CIREF)
International and Finance InstitutionsBNI - Crédit Lyonnais (BNI - CL) from Madagascar - BNI - CL has supported the export of rosewood
Bank of Africa (BOA) from Mali - BOA has supported the export of rosewood. Note that BOA shareholders include the Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency), the World Bank Group (through the International Finance Corporation), the Netherlands Development Finance Company, and the Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur (Moroccan Bank of Foreign Trade).
BFV - Société Générale (BFV - SG) from France - BFV - SG has supported the export of rosewood
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Alliance Voahary Gasy (AVG), Cercle de Concertation des Partenaires Techniques et Financiers du Secteur Environnement (CCPTF-E), Global Witness, Environment Investigation Agency (Washington DC)
Observatoire National de l'Environnement et du Secteur Forestier Malgache (ONESF)
Groupement des Opérateurs Touristiques Maroantsetra–Masoala (GOTMM)
SAF/FJKM's Eliahevitra
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
Global Witness
Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG)
Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG)
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
Conservation International (CI)
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
Zurich Zoo

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
A group of Malagasy singers and activists played a major role in informing the public and the local people in Masoala and its surroundings.
The Malagasy diaspora in Europe was also involved in the public information and sensitization on this issue, and has contacted many International Environmental Organisations and NGOs in Europe eg Greenpeace, AVAAZ, WWF, Friends of the earth, etc.
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Boycotts of companies-products
The Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) publicly denounced the situation in Madagascar at the World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires in October 2009 and the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Representatives of Malagasy civil society, conservation and development organizations and the international community issued a statement lamenting the ongoing destruction of Madagascar’s last fragments of forest for the illegal harvest and export of precious woods. They called to boycott Madagascar’s rosewood and ebony explained.


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Noise pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Other Environmental impactsOne of the direct environmental impacts of the illegal logging in Masoala is the habitat destruction for many species, especially for endagered lemurs. In addition to this, the lemurs are hunted to be eaten. Many Environmental Organisations are very concerned about this situation.
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Infectious diseases
Potential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Accidents, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Other Health impactsMore than 4,000 people/year lived illegally in the Masoala National Park from 2009 to 2013. This situation has increased the health and social problems in this Region.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence, Increase in violence and crime, Land dispossession, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Other socio-economic impactsSmuggling of rosewood for export from National Parks.
Increase of social problems in the Masoala Region.
Total failure for the tourism sector.
Precious woods are being extracted from forests by roving and sometimes violent gangs of lumbermen and sold to a few powerful businessmen for export.


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Institutional changes
New legislation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The smuggling of rosewood and ebony continues.
Fraud is still continuing along every step in the rosewood trade.
This situation shows how the abundance of natural resources promotes corruption when Institutions have a low level of democracy. In fact, export of rosewood from Madagascar can only be carried out with permission from the Government.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Forestry and Timber Legislation with more than 150 texts and some are in total contradiction

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

2010 Moratorium on Malagasy Rosewood trade (Decree n°2010- 41 in March 24th 2010)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Hery Randriamalala and Zhou Liu, 2010, Rosewood of Madagascar: Between democracy and conservation, Madagascar Conservation and Development, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp. 11-22.

The call to boycott Madagascar’s rosewood and ebony explained (National Geographic, October 6th 2009)

Report from the Malagasy Environmental Civil Society "Alliance Voahary Gasy"

Madagascar's forests vanish to feed taste for rosewood in west and China (The Guardian, 23 Dec. 2013)

In search of Madagascar's "Rosewood Mafia" (BBC News, 21th february 2014)

Gibson settles discord on timber (BBC News, 6 August 2012)

Meta information

Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1233



Illegal wood cutting


Masoala illegal logging