The End of the Rosewood Racket in West Africa Announced Today

Washington, DC – The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) commends today’s announcement to immediately suspend international trade in Pterocarpus erinaceus from West Africa under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The historic move to ban trade in what has become the world’s most trafficked wildlife commodity applies to all 16 source countries, including current top exporters Sierra Leone, Ghana, The Gambia, and Mali. 

The suspension will remain in place until countries can credibly prove to the CITES Secretariat and the Chairs of the Standing Committee and Plants Committee that trade will be legal and sustainable through respective legal acquisition and non-detriment findings. The decision is binding for all 184 member States of the Convention, including importing countries such as China, who won’t be able to accept shipments of illegal Pterocarpus erinaceus anymore.   

Raphael Edou, Africa Program Manager for the Forest Campaigns at EIA said: “This is a historic milestone for the Convention, it shows how the international community can effectively respond to organized crime by putting an end to one of the world’s largest illegal wildlife trafficking schemes. It is also a very important victory for West African countries, who courageously stepped forward to seek international help in their efforts to stop the criminal destruction of their natural resources.” These countries are notably Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

The rosewood crisis has devastated the forests and people of West Africa for almost a decade. EIA’s investigations  in Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia and Mali have shown how illegal and unsustainable trade in Pterocarpus erinaceus has persisted despite its listing on CITES Appendix II, which came into effect on January 2, 2017. Research has shown that most, if not all, of the trade in Pterocarpus erinaceus from West Africa to Asia has taken place in violation of the Convention. According to EIA’s analysis, as of April 2022, over 3 million tons of rosewood worth more than US$2 billion had been illegally traded between West Africa and China over a five year period. 

The suspension of the international trade in Pterocarpus erinaceus from Nigeria, which has been implemented by Asian countries, and in particular China, since October 2018, has demonstrated a very significant impact on the level of illegal trade, and given the decimated populations a fighting chance to recover. EIA looks forward to seeing the same effective implementation of this decision under the Convention, now applying to all West African countries. 

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