The rosewood crisis has been devastating West African forests and the livelihoods of its people for almost a decade. Illegal and unsustainable trade in Pterocarpus erinaceus (P. erinaceus) has persisted despite the listing on Appendix III and then II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Recent reports commissioned by or addressed to the CITES Secretariat, have shed light on expanding regional exploitation for international trade in violation of the Convention. EIA’s new analysis, based on CITES trade data from 2016 to 2020, indicates a discrepancy of close to 2 million tons between quantities reported by exporters and importers. Importers have reported more than double the quantity reported by exporters.
The rosewood traffic in Mali is yet another example of the regional crisis. Since 2018, Mali has suffered two military coups, while the country has become one of the largest suppliers of rosewood to China, through the export of P. erinaceus. The relentless timber poaching in the southern forests of Mali has resulted in a significant decline of the species in multiple areas. EIA’s research indicates that the international trade in P. erinaceus in its current form has continuously been prohibited in Mali since May 2020, via a harvest ban in effect from May 2020 to March 2021 and a log export ban regulation effective since February 2021. From May 2020 to January 2022, EIA estimates that China has imported over 123,400 tons of P. erinaceus from Mali – equivalent to approximately 4,500 containers, 365,900 logs, or 182,900 trees – in breach of Malian laws.
The situation in Mali and more broadly in West Africa calls for an urgent response, which should build on the lessons learned from other range States and the precedent set by the trade suspension in Nigeria. EIA recommends: (1) a consolidated Article XIII review for exporters – including Mali – and importers involved in the trade since 2016; (2) a regional trade suspension for all range States unless a scientifically robust non- detriment finding has been approved and legal acquisition findings are made prior to export; (3) effective support provided for wildlife crime enforcement and governance initiatives in West Africa.