- Since the 2008 coup, forest conservation efforts in Madagascar have been reversed and illegal logging has grown into a major revenue source. The current government is said to be licensing exports of illegally logged wood to compensate its revenue shortfalls after donors pulled out.
Marc Ravalomanana, the former president of Madagascar, now condemns the "environmental devastation" taking place in his home country, and demands that illegal loggers and those who facilitate their trade must be brought to justice.
His comments come as Delmas, a French shipping company, began shipping illegally logged rosewood from Madagascar's shrinking rainforests. The exportation of the rare timber was approved last week by the coup leadership currently in power in Madagascar.
Mr Ravalomanana condemned the practice, saying: "Madagascar's beautiful environment and unique biodiversity are among our country's greatest assets. This is now under threat from the illegal destruction of our precious hardwoods. Malagasy authorities must not be complicit in this short-sighted practice. Any government must make clear that all individuals or companies that engage in illegal activities will be subject to Malagasy."
Mr Ravalomanana's presidency was widely credited for promoting conservation in Madagascar. As President, Mr Ravalomanana set aside 10 percent of the country as national parks and the amount of protected land rose from 1.7 million hectares in 2003 to six million hectares five years later. This has been seen as a main factor behind the development of a successful ecotourism industry, worth US$ 390 million in 2008.
Illegal logging has soared since the country fell into political crisis in March 2009, when Andry Rajoelina assumed the presidency following a military coup. In recent months, President Rajoelina's government has repeatedly issued licenses approving the exportation of illegally logged rosewood.
Conservationists from the WWF, Conservation International and the Wildlife Conservation Society have raised concerns that the incumbent government is absorbing logging revenues to replenish depleted state funds, which partly comes as a consequence of Madagascar's international isolation after the coup.
Niall O'Connor, a representative of WWF Madagascar, criticised the government's decision to allow rosewood exportation as prioritising "short-term financial benefits over the interest of Malagasy people."
The country's desperate financial situation is itself the result of the political crisis, as international donors withdrew funding, which the IMF estimates had previously accounted for up to 50 percent of the country's budget.
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