Panama's Environment Ministry Detains Containers of Rosewood Logs

The trunk of a mature Rosewood tree

The trunk of a mature Rosewood tree

Last week Panama’s Ministry of Environment (ANAM) captured 13 containers of illegally harvested rosewood--dalbergia retusa--before being shipped to Hong Kong. The value of the 200 m3 of logs in the 13 containers is valued at $4 million dollars in Hong Kong according to ANAM. This article in La Estrella de Panama, a local newspaper, gives a brief review of the capture.

Rosewood continues to be probably the most sought after species in Panama’s forests because of its high value in China (and the rest of Asia). Its harvesting causes serious problems for the Indigenous Peoples of Panama, especially the Wounaan and Embera tribes, whose forests contain much of the remaining old-growth rosewood trees.

While we are encouraged that ANAM captured this shipment, the trees have already been felled. There is significant work to be done to control the problem. An excellent short documentary released just last month explains one of the saddest incidents related to illegal harvesting of rosewood on Indigenous Peoples’ lands. The titling of Indigenous Lands and increased resources for enforcement by ANAM are part of the solution. Two non-governmental organizations, Native Futures and the Rainforest Foundation US, do excellent work helping the Indigenous Peoples of the region title their lands.

We are pleased to see the increased capturing of illegally harvested rosewood, but were saddened to learn from the article that ANAM already this year has captured 500m3 of rosewood. That is a lot of the now rare rosewood trees left in Panama and the loss of a valuable patrimony for the people whose land the trees were stolen from. Planting Empowerment does plant rosewood in its plantations and looks forward to having sustainable and legally produced rosewood to supply the market with in the future.