The International Forestry Research Center (CIFOR) website recently reported that CIFOR has carried out a series of conservation actions aimed at protecting the rare tree species of red sandalwood from illegal logging. The red sandalwood is named for its gorgeous colors and is favored by consumers. It is widely distributed in Africa, especially in the dry and sparse forest areas of southwest Africa. The phenomenon of illegal trade in African sandalwood has been commonplace for many years, but the international community has only recently paid attention to it.
Since 2013, a large number of Hedgehog rosewood (Pterocarpus Erinaceus Poir) has been illegally felled and exported. With the increasing illicit trade in African red sandalwood, in order to protect the hedgehog red sandalwood, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) decided to list the hedgehog rosewood in the Appendix II species list. However, when CIFOR experts studied the timber trade in Zambia, it was found that P. tinctorius, which is also a rosewood in the Congo (Kinshasa), is rapidly disappearing due to heavy harvesting and export. Immediately, experts issued alarms through various channels, calling for attention to the protection of blood sandalwood. After many efforts, the Malawi government took the lead in proposing the inclusion of bloodstone in the list of species in Appendix II of the CITES Convention, which was unanimously agreed by all parties. The resolution will enter into force in November 2019, when the import and export trade of blood sandalwood in countries such as Malawi, Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia will require a CITES license. Like the Hedgehog rosewood, the issuance, testing and verification of the CITES certificate will greatly protect the blood sandal from illegal logging and trade. Not only that, but the CITES Plants Committee will also conduct regular reviews of the blood sandal trade, and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Center is also building a database on blood sands to monitor and flag suspicious harvesting activities. Despite the very strict review mechanism in the world, because of the strong demand, the threat of illegal trafficking of rare trees such as Hedgehog rosewood and blood sandalwood will still exist.
The illegal trade of Hedgehog rosewood and blood sandalwood is very fluid, similar to the pattern of “shooting one shot and one place”. For example, traders look for red sandalwood or blood sandalwood in the woodland, cut it down and sell it to timber exporters for huge profits. Then they look for the next piece of woodland and then cut the red sandalwood trees there. This model not only causes irreversible environmental degradation, but also does not seem to be effectively prevented by national laws. For example, despite the implementation of the relevant ban, trucks and containers involved in illegal trade are seized, and sometimes even criminals are arrested, but more often, traders evade punishment by crossing the border from one country to another, or find Another tree of higher value that is not protected by the ban is deforested.
In this regard, CIFOR experts believe that in the face of illegal logging and timber trade, it cannot be solved solely by the CITES Convention, and producers and importing countries need to shoulder their own responsibilities. But the complexity of diplomacy and the considerable source of income are still major obstacles for the government to move from high-profile commitments to effective implementation.