Greenpeace accuses CITES committee of failing to protect endangered Afrormosia tree, calls for suspension of international trade in Afrormosia wood, 'drastic' improvement in enforcement to reduce risk of extinction in Democratic Republic of Congo

GENEVA , July 11, 2014 (press release) – International trade in Afrormosia wood should be suspended and a drastic improvement in enforcement is required if the species is not to remain at great risk of extinction in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) according to Greenpeace International and the Center for International Environmental law (CIEL).

This week the Standing Committee of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) failed to take strong measures to protect Afrormosia during its annual meeting in Geneva.

Despite strong intervention from the European Union (EU), the species remains at great risk due to widespread illegal logging and international export.

"Increased transparency in CITES is needed," says Melissa Blue Sky, a staff attorney with CIEL. "It was an unwelcome surprise that Afrormosia was eliminated from the Review of Significant Trade prior to this meeting."

"Although we need much stronger measures if the species is to survive, the intervention the EU made, urging DRC to deliver strong evidence for the 2015 export quota and putting Afrormosia on the agenda of the next Plants Committee meeting provides opportunities for continued monitoring of DRC’s compliance and a basis for future enforcement measures."

Danielle Van Oijen, forests campaigner with Greenpeace Netherlands, says: "Sitting in a meeting room in Geneva it is hard not to think of the huge piles of Afrormosia logs I saw in DRC’s logging yards and port, most of it harvested illegally and causing forest destruction."

"Belgium and Italy are main importers, and therefore these countries need to make sure they do extensive checks on all documentation from DRC with shipments of Afrormosia, because they are most likely not valid."

Afrormosia, or Pericopsis elata, has been listed under Annex II of CITES since 1992. DRC is under a review under Article XIII of the Convention because of huge issues with compliance. This year parties were notified that they should not accept CITES permits from the DRC until they have been verified by the Secretariat. There is a new incentive to cheat with CITES permits since the coming into force of the EUTR in March 2013, where CITES species have a green lane.

Afrormosia is one of the world's most valuable tropical hardwoods and the DRC is home to the vast majority of the species' remaining stocks.

Greenpeace and CIEL urge the DRC to immediately suspend all cutting of Afrormosia, to cancel all authorizations for its cutting, and to take legal action against the companies in the DRC that were issued CITES permits only to then inform the Secretariat that they were "unaccounted for".

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