Gambia bans timber exports to combat illegal logging

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A driver from Guinea waiting to drive to Bissau stands amid cut rosewood in Sintchan Tcherno, File.

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BANJUL, July 1 (Reuters) - Gambia has banned timber exports and permanently revoked all timber export licenses in an effort to combat illegal logging, the government said in a statement on Friday.

The tiny West African country, along with its neighbours Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, has struggled for more than a decade with the trafficking of rosewood, a species valued for furniture in China.

Despite the fact that the West African rosewood tree was declared nearly extinct in Gambia in 2012, the country has remained one of the largest exporters of the species to China, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

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The ban is effective immediately, and port authorities are instructed to refuse loading timber logs onto any vessel, the government statement said.

The felling and import of rosewood is also banned, it said, and random searches of containers will be conducted.

President Adama Barrow took measures against rosewood trafficking when he took office in 2017, but stopped short of a full export ban.

Gambia exported approximately 1.6 million rosewood trees between June 2012 and April 2020, most of which were in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), under which West African rosewood has been listed since 2017, according to the London-based EIA.

CITES issued a statement in June calling on seven states, including Gambia, to suspend the rosewood trade immediately.

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Reporting by Pap Saine; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Sandra Maler

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