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New rules for ebony trade: fingerboard and tailpiece wood will be subject to CITES restrictions

March 12, 2013

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The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has agreed new measures aimed at tackling the illegal trade in ebony from Madagascar. Delegates at a meeting of CITES in Bangkok, Thailand, agreed to five separate proposals regarding the list of protected species on CITES Appendix II. The appendix, which names species in which international trade must be controlled, now lists more than 200 species of rosewood and ebony.

With ebony in high demand for violin fingerboards (left), as well as for some pegs and tailpieces, the restrictions could have far-reaching implications for the stringed-instrument trade. Most of the illegally cut hardwood, however, is destined for Asian countries such as China, where furniture made of ivory and rosewood is highly prized. The illegal trade in these woods is estimated to be worth up to £20bn annually.

More than 100 species of ebony are known to grow in Madascagar and for some species, there are no surviving trees left in the wild. In all, 135 species of Madagascan ebony and rosewoods will be protected under the new trade restrictions.

Kate Horner, director of forest campaigns at the Environmental Investigation Agency–US, called the vote a ‘necessary first step’ for protecting the named species. ‘We hope for swift and effective implementation, with the full support of all Parties to CITES, and especially from major transit and consuming countries,’ she said.

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