Governments urged to deliver on their key obligations

LONDON: As international UN trade restrictions on endangered Siam rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis) come into effect from tomorrow (June 12, 2013), the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) warns the future of the species relies entirely on range states and key user countries credibly delivering on their protection obligations.

EIA played a key role in supporting the Thai and Vietnamese governments efforts to secure Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) protection for Siam rosewood at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP16) in Bangkok in March, where it was listed on Appendix II.

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But EIA Forests Campaign head Faith Doherty today warned: “It was a major step forward to secure the Appendix II listing, which comes into effect tomorrow, but on its own that’s not going to be enough to save this species.

“Rigorous compliance with the listing is what is required, and EIA will be looking at the key players in this trade to ensure it that is happening.”

Under CITES Appendix II, species cannot be exported from range state producer countries without CITES export permits issued by relevant management authorities, with those in turn being issued on the basis of scientific authority confirmation that such trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. Range states are also obliged to pre-notify the CITES Secretariat regarding quotas for harvest and trade before any CITES export permits can be issued.

For Siam rosewood, these export obligations apply to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam – all of which have experienced rampant illegal exports in recent years. In Thailand, National Parks rangers have been actively supressing illegal rosewood logging and trade since the CITES listing was agreed.

Importing countries also have clear obligations to ensure imports of Siamese rosewood are not accepted unless accompanied by valid CITES export permits. This obligation is particularly important in China, the biggest end-user of Siam rosewood.

Escalating demand for rosewood has resulted in an illegal international trade dubbed ‘the rosewood wars’ which is characterised by corruption, high financial stakes, violence and killings. A brief online trade survey by EIA in March 2013 found that traders throughout the Mekong region were offering 20,000 cubic meters more Siam rosewood for sale than Thailand has estimated remain in natural forest stocks – dramatically illustrating the extreme threat ongoing trade presents to the species.

The major driver of rosewood theft is China’s multi-million dollar market in luxury ‘Hongmu’ antique-style furniture. Surging demand and the increasing scarcity of Siam rosewood have seen prices hit as much as US$50,000 per cubic meter.

The Hongmu market is overseen by a so-called Redwood Committee housed within China’s Timber & Wood Products Distribution Association (CTWPDA) – the largest timber trade federation in China. The Redwood Committee has more than 100 member companies involved in trade and manufacturing. Despite no legal sources existing, Siam rosewood is one of 33 species of precious and mostly endangered timber itemised by the Redwood Committee in a list of “legitimate” Hongmu materials.

Only last month, EIA called on the Redwood Committee and its parent federation to ensure their policies and members are not underwriting the destruction of a World Heritage Site in Thailand after the Thai Government claimed huge demand had left it unable to stop numerous armed illegal logging gangs from stealing the precious timber from the Khao Yai-Dong Phayayen Forest Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

EIA is also urging range states not to allow loopholes in the Siam rosewood listing to be abused by traders or corrupt officials, based on credible concerns that semi-processed components will be exempted from the purview of the CITES listing in a way that negates the conservation opportunity for the species.

Interviews are available on request: please contact Jago Wadley via or telephone 020 7354 7960.


1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK-based Non Governmental Organisation and charitable trust (registered charity number 1145359) that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals.

2. Siam rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis) was listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP16) in Bangkok, Thailand, in March 2013.

3. CITES Appendix II lists species not necessarily threatened with extinction at present but which may become so unless trade is closely controlled. International trade in specimens of species listed in Appendix II may be authorised by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate. No import permit is necessary under CITES. Permits or certificates should only be granted if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, above all that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

4. The term ‘rosewood’ refers to a wide variety of richly hued, extremely durable and increasingly rare timbers harvested from an array of tree species worldwide, largely from the Dalbergia genus. Displaying a range of brown to reddish-black colourings, rosewood timber is highly prized for decorative purposes and commonly used in luxury wood products such as furniture, musical instruments, ornaments and veneer. In Thailand and the Mekong region, important rosewood-producing tree species include Siam rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis Pierre) and Burmese rosewood (Dalbergia bariensis Pierre). Classified as ‘endangered’ and ‘vulnerable’ to extinction, these rosewood species are the most valuable wood in regional trade and the major target of illegal loggers.

5. Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex comprises Khao Yai, Thap Lan, Pang Sida and Ta Phraya national parks, and the Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary.

Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960



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