of the media only;
not an official document.
CITES trade controls to
take effect for mahogany
11 November 2003 – Internationally agreed trade regulations
for big-leaf mahogany will enter into force on 15 November. This
tropical timber generates over 100 million dollars a year in export
sales, making it one of the world’s most valuable forest
The controls were adopted one year ago by the Conference of the
Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which has now 164 member
States. The neotropical populations of big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia
macrophylla) will now be listed on CITES Appendix II, which
requires that shipments of this timber be accompanied by a CITES
“Illegal logging and unsustainable export levels are threatening
to render big-leaf mahogany commercially extinct in the near future,
a trend that has been reflected in recent years by rising prices,”
stated CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers.
“By relying on the CITES permit system, exporters, importers
and consumers of mahogany can be confident that they are using
only legally and sustainably harvested timber. The new regulations
will also benefit local and indigenous communities, which until
now have not received their fair share of the income from mahogany
sales,” he said.
Admired for its high quality, beauty and durability, mahogany
is made into luxury furniture, boats, expensive panelling, musical
instruments and other wood products. One cubic metre of big-leaf
mahogany can fetch some USD 1,300 on the international market
and one tree alone can produce more than USD 100,000 worth of
high-quality furniture. In the year 2000, Latin America exported
some 120,000 cubic metres of big-leaf mahogany.
Big-leaf mahogany thrives in dry tropical forests ranging from
southern Mexico to the Amazon basin. It can grow to 70 m, with
an average height of 30-40 m, and trunks can reach 3.5 m in diameter.
mahogany range has become fragmented, many populations have declined
dramatically and the building of access roads for mahogany lumbering
has encouraged broader deforestation. Populations of big-leaf
mahogany have declined by over 70% in Central America since 1950.
The species is already reported to be commercially extinct in
El Salvador, Costa Rica and parts of South America. The other
two species of Latin American mahogany – the Cuban mahogany
(Swietenia mahagoni) and Honduras mahogany (Swietenia
humilis) – are also now commercially extinct. Today,
the major natural stands of big-leaf mahogany are in Brazil, Bolivia
and Peru. Plantations have been established in Fiji and other
countries, but the CITES listing will not apply to them.
The leading importers of big-leaf mahogany are the United States
– which alone accounts for some 60% of the entire market
– the Dominican Republic, the United Kingdom and Spain.
The Appendix-II listing will enable importing nations to better
assist export nations with checking the legality of shipments
and ensuring that the mahogany trade is fully transparent.
For exporting countries, an Appendix-II listing will provide
the controls, information and tools they need to manage their
mahogany resources and ensure that trade bans or commercial extinction
are not the next step. CITES permits are only issued if Government-appointed
Management Authorities can confirm that the timber has been obtained
legally and independent Scientific Authorities certify that its
harvesting is not detrimental to the survival of the species.
CITES Authorities in both the exporting and importing countries
are to monitor the shipments and verify the validity of each CITES
Additional background information
CITES, whose Secretariat is administered by the United Nations
Environment Programme, was adopted in 1973 to address the threat
posed to wildlife by international trade. Unregulated international
trade can push threatened and endangered species over the brink,
especially when combined with habitat loss and other pressures.
CITES accords varying degrees of regulation to more than 30,000
plant and animal species depending on their biological status
and the impact that international trade may have upon them.
CITES provides three regulatory options in the form of Appendices.
Animals and plants listed under Appendix I are excluded from international
commercial trade except in very special circumstances. They include
all the great apes; various big cats such as cheetahs, the snow
leopard and the tiger; numerous birds of prey, cranes, and pheasants;
all sea turtles; many species of crocodiles, tortoises and snakes;
and some cacti and orchids.
Commercial trade is permitted for species listed in Appendix
II, but it is strictly controlled on the basis of CITES permits.
This Appendix includes all those primates, cats, cetaceans, parrots,
crocodiles and orchids not listed in Appendix I.
Finally, Appendix III includes species that are protected within
the borders of a member country. An Appendix-III listing allows
a country to call on others to help it regulate trade in the listed
species. This Appendix also requires CITES documentation. Six
Latin American states had listed their populations of big-leafed
mahogany in this Appendix before it became included in Appendix
Note to journalists: For more information, contact Juan-Carlos
Vasquez at +41-22-8156 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Michael Williams
at +41-79-409-1528 (cell), +41-22-917-8242 (office), or email@example.com.
See also www.cites.org.
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