What Is Rosewood & Where is it Sourced?
Rosewood is a type of timber that belongs to the genus Dalbergia. There are 300 different species of rosewood with wide distribution throughout the tropical regions of Central and South America, Africa, Madagascar and southern Asia.
High demand for rosewood from Chinese markets have lead to severe deforestation of the Rosewood populations in Asia, where many species are nearing extinction. Now, areas such as Africa are feeling the pressure as Chinese loggers widen their perview to meet the demand of this $15 billion market.
How Is Rosewood Used in Our Products?
Rosewoods are strong and heavy, taking an excellent polish, and are used widely for the construction various products, including:
- hongmu-style furniture
- guitars and other instruments
- turnery (billiard cues, fountain pens, chess pieces, etc.)
- luxury flooring
Why is Rosewood a Problem?
Rosewood is the most trafficked wild item in the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, rosewood accounts for 35 percent of all seized wildlife products and is valued at more than elephant ivory, rhino horns, pangolins, lions, and tigers combined. The demand for rosewood timber has grown exponentially in the last decade, mainly due to the growing wealth and desire of the Chinese middle classes for luxury furniture, specifically the intricately carved hongmu style that traditionally uses rosewood.
Although the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has put a ban on all 300 species of rosewood in an attempt to crack down on the rampant illegal logging and trafficking of its timber, trade is still rampant.
According to the EIA, hongmu log imports into China increased by 1,300 percent from 2009 to 2014, with exports from West Africa having grown over 1,000-fold in the last five years. And it is still increasing: In the first half of 2016 alone, China imported on average the equivalent of 350 logs per hour. The value of the rosewood trade has multiplied 65 times in the last decade, and is now worth an estimated $2.2 billion.
All 300 species of rosewood (Dalbergia) are included under the CITES Appendix II listing–its second highest level of protection. This classification is an important step to protecting the rosewood species, but it will be up to governments to enforce regulation in the hopes of mitigating population declines.
What Should I Do?
Ensure that you are up to date on regulations regarding the buying, selling, and trafficking of rosewood and rosewood products. You can learn more about regulations by going to the CITES website. Many companies also make their own guides for consumers.