CITES failing to adequately protect endangered Afrormosia tree

For Immediate Release
July 14, 2014

Geneva – International trade in Afrormosia wood should be suspended and a drastic improvement in enforcement is required if the species is not to remain at great risk of overexploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) according to Greenpeace International and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).

This week the Standing Committee of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) failed to take strong measures to protect Afrormosia during its annual meeting in Geneva. Despite a strong intervention from the European Union (EU), the species remains at risk due to widespread illegal logging and international export.

“Increased transparency is needed in CITES,” says Melissa Blue Sky, Staff Attorney at CIEL. “Afrormosia’s elimination from the Review of Significant Trade prior to the Standing Committee meeting was an unwelcome surprise.”

“Although we need much stronger measures if the species is to survive,” she adds, “the intervention of the EU, urging DRC to deliver strong evidence for the 2015 export quota and putting Afrormosia on the agenda of the next Plants Committee meeting, provides opportunities for continued monitoring of DRC’s compliance and a basis for future enforcement measures.”

Danielle Van Oijen, Forests Campaigner with Greenpeace Netherlands, says, “Sitting in a meeting room in Geneva it is hard not to think of the huge piles of Afrormosia logs I saw in DRC’s logging yards and port, most of it harvested illegally and causing forest destruction. Belgium and Italy are main importers, and therefore these countries need to make sure they do extensive checks on all documentation from DRC with shipments of Afrormosia, because they are most likely not valid.”

Afrormosia, or Pericopsis elata, has been listed under Annex II of CITES since 1992. DRC is under a review under Article XIII of the Convention because of huge issues with compliance. This year Parties were notified that they should not accept CITES permits from the DRC until the permits are checked and verified by the Secretariat. There is a new incentive to cheat with CITES permits since the EU Timber Regulation came into force in March 2013, where CITES species have a “green lane.”

Afrormosia is one of the world’s most valuable tropical hardwoods and the DRC is home to the vast majority of the species’ remaining stocks.

Greenpeace and CIEL urge the DRC to immediately suspend all cutting of Afrormosia, to cancel all authorizations for its cutting, and to take legal action against the companies in the DRC that were issued CITES permits only to then inform the Secretariat that they were “unaccounted for.”

A letter and briefing documents Greenpeace and CIEL distributed to Parties at the Standing Committee can be found here.


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