Rosewood: Kenya seizes illegal Hong Kong-bound cargo

Bois de rose at workshop Image copyright Iloniaina Alain Rakotondravony

Kenya has impounded illegally logged rosewood worth about $6.6m (£4m), officials have said, in one of the largest seizures of its kind.

The rosewood was being shipped from Madagascar to Hong Kong when it was seized at Kenya's Mombasa port, the officials added.

Illegal logging in Madagascar's rainforests has worsened since a coup in 2009, conservationists say.

There is huge demand for rosewood in Asia to make luxury furniture.

Kenya Wildlife Service official Arthur Tuda said 34 containers of rosewood had been confiscated after it was offloaded in Mombasa, the busiest port in East Africa.

'Wreaking havoc'

"The vessel carrying the wood docked, offloaded the consignment and then left," he is quoted by Kenya's Standard newspaper as saying.

"According to the cargo manifest, the load was declared as ordinary wood from Kenya which is not banned in the international market. This was a ploy to hoodwink us but it did not work," he added.

Image copyright Tamasin Ford
Image caption The illegal trade has boomed in Madagascar since a coup in 2009

The rosewood was grown in Madagascar, and was worth about $6.6m, Mr Tuda said.

The campaign group Environment Investigation Agency (EIA) said the 34 containers held 640 tonnes of rosewood.

"The ongoing crisis of illegal logging in Madagascar is wreaking havoc on the country's extraordinary biodiversity, and its hopes for sustainable development," it said.

Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in Africa, is known for its rich biodiversity but this is being increasingly threatened by smugglers.

A civilian government was elected in December to end the political and economic crisis that the Indian Ocean island since a coup in 2009.

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