A recent resolution passed by the global wildlife body – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) – has taken effect this week and it is expected to provide direly needed protection to endangered tree species, including rosewood, that is still being illegally exported from Ghana despite its hovering close to extinction.
The globally binding wildlife treaty, applicable to all CITES members including Ghana and China is expected to protect endangered tree species notably rosewood and cedar among others from extinction.
The resolution implies that effective this week, the timber species can be internationally traded only with a special CITES permit, issuance of which is contingent upon the timber having been harvested legally, and also proof that its removal does not threaten species survival in the forest from which it was felled.
Currently, reports indicate that the trade in rosewood has become the most illegally traded wildlife product worldwide, in terms of both value and volume, surpassing that of illegal trade in elephant, big cats, rhinoceroses, pangolins, parrots and turtles combined.
Rosewood species are in high demand in Asia, notably China, being used to manufacture furniture. A recent assessment issued by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in the United States indicates that the quantity and value of illegal rosewood imported into China from Ghana in September, 2019 alone amounted to over 9,330 tonnes, worth over US$5.4 million, in breach of Ghana’s regulation prohibiting the harvest, transport and export of the species in the country.
In addition to violating the country’s laws, these exports raise serious questions about Ghana’s implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Wild Species of Fauna and Flora, since West African rosewood species have been protected by the international convention since 2017, EIA asserts.
Notwithstanding the new measures, the EIA is warning that without stringent international regulation to control the trade, the tree species will soon be driven to extinction within the next few years insisting that traffickers will always work to circumvent new rules by falsifying permits, mis-declaring species, and bribing or threatening government officials as has indeed been the case.
Despite the ban on rosewood in Ghana, it was listed by the Forestry Commission for being one of the top five species exported during first quarter 2019 by both volume and value (recording 9,679 cubic metres in 2019’s first quarter).