Illegally Traded Rosewood Species With The Highest Seizure Rates

Stockpiles of illegally logged rosewood  in Antalaha, Madagascar.
Stockpiles of illegally logged rosewood in Antalaha, Madagascar.

Rosewood trees are illegally traded across the world, threatening the survival of some rosewood species. The most endangered of the rosewood species are: Malagasy rosewood, Pterocarpus Santalinus, Dalbergia cochinchinensis other Pterocarpus and Dalbergia granadillo. The Malagasy rosewood is most abundant in Madagascar where it is subject to illegal logging. Other rosewood species originate from countries in Asian countries such as India, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Some of the species are also found distributed in South and Central America. The tree is highly coveted for its rich color and hardwood. China is a top destination for rosewood species to make furniture. The trees are also used to make musical instruments in parts of Europe and the US. The demand for these species is fuelled by a growing affluent middle-class population, especially in China.

Illegally Traded Rosewood Species With The Highest Seizure Rates


Conventional on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) is an international treaty between representatives nations drawn in 1973. Its fundamental role is to ensure that the global trade of species does not render them endangered. The membership of CITES is inherently voluntary. CITES provides a framework to regulate the trading of animal and plant species but does not take the place of a country’s law. CITES applies export and import controls to the species it deems endangered and collaborates with governments to enforce them. CITES also works with stakeholders in the global transport industry such as customs officials or airlines to intercept illegal trade of plants and animal species.

Rosewood Trade

Between 2005 and 2015, the top illegally traded rosewood species by metric tons were the Malagasy rosewood (5,892), Pterocarpus santalinus (2,404), Dalbergia cochinchinensis (798), Other Pterocarpus (458) and Dalbergia granadillo (298). Illegal rosewood logging is especially rampant in Asia and Africa. The Malagasy rosewood which is endemic in Madagascar is exported illegally. Cartels of the illicit trade employ the services of loggers after which the logs are transported through specific routes. Corruption is seen as the primary factor facilitating the exportation. Poverty drives many people to the trade. The illegal logging of Dalbergia cochinchinensis in Laos and Cambodia is also enabled by corruption. Widespread deforestation of the species has seen its numbers sharply decline. Pterocarpus santalinus has been subjected to excessive logging in the Southern parts of India which is threatening its survival.

The rosewood species are highly coveted for their hardwood and their reddish brown color suitable for making high-quality furniture and musical instruments. These species have been included in CITES listings as endangered species. The illegal logging has adverse effects on the areas of origin. Effects such as deforestation, human encroachment and a reduction in bio-diversity have caused a global outcry from wildlife and environment conservationists.

Monitoring The Rosewood Trade

Countries which are home to some of these species have initiated partnerships with CITES to monitor the trade. CITES has subsequently listed diminishing rosewood species as endangered. Importing or exporting these species requires a CITES license which can be withheld in the case of an endangered species. However, illegal trading continues to thrive, and countries have resorted to criminalizing the activity through bans and legislation. Parties found illegally trading these rosewood species are subjected to punishment. Local authorities liaise with customs officials to intercept illegal rosewood trading operations.

Illegally Traded Rosewood Species With The Highest Seizure Rates

RankRosewood SpeciesShare of global rosewood seizures by species (metric tons), aggregated 2005-2015
1Malagasy rosewood5,892
2Pterocarpus santalinus2,404
3Dalbergia cochinchinensis798
4Other pterocarpus458
5Dalbergia granadillo298

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