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Scientists meet in Doha to discuss global trade in timber and wild plants
Top on the agenda mahogany, cedar, ramin, candelilla, agarwood, Guaiacum and other
plants valued for their wood, medicinal, ornamental or other qualities
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Doha, 14 March 2010 – Top experts attending the ongoing meeting of the triennial general assembly of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will consider how best to regulate trade in wild plants and products such as musical instruments, cancer medicines, lipsticks, emulsions, polishes, gums, cosmetics, perfumes and many other products containing wild plants protected by CITES.
The world summit will discuss new measures to trace the legal origin of timber entering international markets and ensure the sustainable harvesting of mahogany and other precious timbers. The neotropical populations of the bigleaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)are listed on CITES Appendix II, which requires that shipments of this timber be accompanied by a CITES export permit. Admired for its high quality, beauty and durability, mahogany is made into luxury furniture, boats, expensive panelling, musical instruments and other products. One cubic metre of big-leaf mahogany can fetch over USD 1,000 on the international market and one tree alone can produce more than USD 100,000 worth of high-quality furniture. The bigleaf 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.
The mahogany range has become fragmented, many populations have declined dramatically and the building of access roads for mahogany lumbering has encouraged broader deforestation. Populations have declined by over 70 % in Central America since 1950 and 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 the bigleaf mahogany are in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. Plantations have been established in Fiji and other countries, but the CITES listing does not apply to them.
The leading importers of this wood are the United States – which alone accounts for some 80 % of the entire market – the Dominican Republic, the United Kingdom and Spain. The Appendix-II listing enables importing nations to better assist export nations with checking the legality of shipments and ensuring that the mahogany trade is fully transparent.
The CITES member States will also discuss the merits of removing the controls for lipsticks and other products containing candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica). These products are traded in enormous quantities through a complex supply chain. Relaxing the current controls on finished products containing candelilla would allow enforcement officers to focus on the smuggling of illegal timber and other endangered plants from their natural habitats.
Euphorbia antisyphilitica is a shrubby plant whose natural range extends from the southwest of the United States (New Mexico and Texas) to Mexico, having densely clustered stems that yield the multipurpose candelilla wax. Its distinctive properties make it an essential raw material in a wide array of cosmetics (especially lipsticks), inks, dyes, adhesives, coatings, emulsions, polishes, pharmaceutical products and gum base. Candelilla wax is also used as separation agent or mould in the production of candles, chocolates, cakes and jellies.
To date, Mexico seems to be the only country exporting candelilla wax. However, some of the wax is exported to the United States, from where traders re-export it to Europe or the Far East, sometimes without the mandatory CITES re-export certificates.
Other issues on the agenda include the adoption of measures to protect 14 species from Madagascar, agarwood, Guaiacum and other plants. It will also address the potential impacts of CITES measures on the livelihoods of the rural poor, those on the frontlines of using and managing forests and wild plants.
Note to journalists: For more information, contact Juan Carlos Vasquez at +974-4175621 or +974-5692804 (cell), or juan.vasquez [at] cites.org
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