Panamá adds cocobolo to endangered tree list

The secretariat of the United Nations-backed convention governing trade in endangered species said Wednesday that Madagascar and Panamá have requested that it regulate the import and export of 91 hardwood species in a bid to curb the rising trade in illegally acquired high-quality wood.

The listing of ebony wood and rosewood species in Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora will facilitate detection of fraud and make critical trade information available to exporting and importing countries, according to the secretariat.

Appendix III regulations mean that all cross-border shipments now have to be authorized by the issuance of a document certifying the origin of the products covered by the listing.

Panama also requested the help of the other 174 parties to the convention to control trade in Dalbergia darienensis and Dalbergia retusa, known as black rosewood or cocobolo. Dalbergia retusa are found mainly in dry tropical forests from Mexico to Panama.

Cocobolo is exceptionally good for marine use. Because it is hard, beautiful, and very stable, it is also used for gun grips, butts of billiard cues and chess pieces. Cocobolo is resonant when struck, making it a preferred material for marimbas, clarinets and xylophones.

Madagascar requested the inclusion in the convention of five species of rosewood (genus Dalbergia) and 84 species of ebony wood (genus Diospyros) after illegal trade increased by 25 per cent in 2009 and about 25,000 cubic meters of rosewood were exported.

Rosewood is sought after for its rich reddish-brown color and hardwood, extensively used for high-end furniture, housing and musical instruments. In future, all international trade in logs, sawn wood and veneer sheets of the listed species will need to be accompanied by documentation confirming the country of origin.

Welcoming the new listings, which will enter into force Dec. 22, the convention’s secretary general, John Scanlon said: the convention will support Madagascar’s and Panama’s efforts to control their timber trade and ensure that such trade remains legal and traceable.

“Regulating trade in these high-value timber species . . . will help ensure that the benefits of trade flow to local people and it will also serve the global community by helping conserve these species, which will be to the benefit of entire ecosystems.”

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