MOMBASA, Kenya May 28 Kenyan customs officials
seized dozens of shipping containers holding hundreds of tonnes
of illegally logged rosewood from Madagascar, they said on
Wednesday, the largest bust of its kind and worth as much as $13
Illegal logging of hardwood in the Indian Ocean island's
rain forests spiralled out of control after a coup in 2009 and
remains rampant, conservationists say, threatening rare species,
including lemurs, that are found nowhere else.
Famed for its wildlife and eyed by foreign firms for its
minerals, Madagascar's tourism has struggled since the coup.
The haul on May 26 at the port of Mombasa, a popular transit
point for drugs and ivory smugglers, was being shipped to Hong
Kong and was loaded in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago
off mainland Tanzania.
"The ongoing crisis of illegal logging in Madagascar is
wreaking havoc on the country's extraordinary biodiversity, and
its hopes for sustainable development," the Environment
Investigation Agency (EIA) said, noting that the 34 containers
were carrying 640 tonnes of rosewood worth $12.8 million.
From Hong Kong, rosewood is commonly smuggled into mainland
China where it is used to make luxury furniture.
Fatma Yusuf, a senior commissioner at the Kenya Revenue
Authority, said the wood would be worth $6.8 million in China.
"We monitored the ship which along the way, was rerouted to
Zanzibar and the cargo loaded on another ship, but eventually
this ship docked at the port in Mombasa," he told Reuters.
The December election of President Hery Rajaonarimampianina
is seen as a vital step to rebuild confidence in an economy
which was crippled after investors fled and donors suspended
support. Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries.
(Reporting by Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa and Richard Lough in
Nairobi; Editing by Louise Ireland)