Controlling the bigleaf mahogany trade

Posted on 14 July 2006
Bigleaf mahogany receives better potection at CITES. Credit: WWF-Canon / A. Bärtschi
Lima, Peru – Despite international protection, bigleaf mahogany is still being plundered at an unsustainable rate, with levels of illegal logging and the lack of implementation of international legal trade requirements pushing this tropical hardwood tree towards extinction, say WWF and TRAFFIC.

“It’s about time countries agreed to drastic action and international cooperation between neighbouring source and consumer countries,” said WWF Global Species Programme Director Dr Susan Lieberman, commenting on a discussion on bigleaf mahogany at a plants committee meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) recently held in Peru.

“As Peru is by far the largest exporter of bigleaf mahogany today, we are particularly concerned about the situation here,” she added.

Although important advances have been made towards reducing illegal mahogany from filtering to the international market, WWF and TRAFFIC believe Peru has still to address several key governance, management and technical issues in order to guarantee the control of a situation. This includes ensuring that bigleaf mahogany exports are legal in origin, and that there is an increase in the transparency of the trade chain to reduce levels of illegal trade.

Bigleaf mahogany from the Amazon is one of the most valuable in the timber trade. And as a result of intensive felling, most of the Central American, Mexican and Caribbean forests have already been depleted of mahogany.

Due to concern over the impact of this trade on its wild populations, bigleaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) was listed under CITES in 2003. The listing allows international trade, as long as it is legal and biologically sustainable.

Despite the listing, the illegal and unsustainable trade in the tree species continues.

“We want to see that any exported mahogany has been logged in accordance with national laws and that the exports are not detrimental to the species in the wild,” said Dr Lieberman. “We want importing countries to stop allowing wood to enter their countries that has either been taken illegally, or has been taken in ways that threaten the survival of the species.”

In order to help range States make progress on managing sustainable mahogany populations, delegates attending the CITES Plants Committee meeting suggested developing a regional strategic action plan to address ongoing problems, and addressing enforcement problems. This issue will be high on the agenda at the CITES Standing Committee, scheduled for October 2006 in Geneva, Switzerland, well as at the meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP14) in the Hague, The Netherlands in June 2007.


• TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN-the World Conservation Union.

For further information:
Cliona O’Brien, Wildlife Trade Officer
WWF Global Species Programme
Tel: +39 0684497393
Bigleaf mahogany receives better potection at CITES. Credit: WWF-Canon / A. Bärtschi