I've been to Madagascar and I've seen first-hand what resource exploitation has done to the place (not to mention poverty and horrendous politics). I've long maintained that Madagascar rosewood, so fashionable in the lutherie world, is being extracted illegally, but my lone voice hasn't been able to do much.

National Geographic's current (September 2010) issue has an article on this issue. I urge folks who think all's fair in the marketplace have a good look at that article. Many of the damning images and brief captions can be viewed here:

This map of the current state of things isn't in the slideshow at the Geo site:

It was all forest once. It's mostly burned out bare dirt eroding into the Indian Ocean now. Commercial trade in Madagascar rosewood has been built entirely on lies. There's almost none left. Please think about it.

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I can't afford it neway so I'm using mahog,maple,except for fingerboards(usually ebony) and that ain't no lie.If
I had enough money to go to Madagascar I'd put it to better use.
Regrettably, this is one of the "unfortunate truths" that luthiers have to be confronted with. I suspect that you won't get much in the way of discussion or reply as to do so is to defend the indefensible. Given that the main users of these endangered species appears to be luthiers I suggest the predicted painful silence means that this destruction will continue unabated until the last of this remaining resource is wiped out. At this stage the luthiers will simply move on to an alternative species until it is also wiped out.
In Australia we comply with the CITES protocols and don't use, for instance Honduras or Brazilian Mahogany, other than old stock which was legally logged and processed before the species was placed on the CITES listing. We now source a lot of our high quality mahogany (certified) from sustainable plantations located throughout the Pacific region.

However, The USA continues to encourage the illegal destruction of the Amazon rain-forests by ignoring the CITES convention and supporting the commercial logging of the Amazon. An unpleasant fact that I suspect I will not be applauded for bringing up on this forum but it's simply another "inconvenient truth" that my colleagues would like to ignore.

I'd like to go on but it is probably pointless - the higher order ethics and morality needed to stop this destruction and extinction of commercial and ecologically important species is generally overcome by the personal and commercial lust for "name" species. Sad stuff really but I don't see the major makers or the occasional builders having an attack of conscience any time soon.
Thanks, Russell, for your thoughtful (though understandably pessimistic!) response.
I have never seen a piece of it other than in a picture of a guitar made from it . I realy don't think we should put the blame on the Luthiers for all the loss of the rain forests as i am quite sure that it was likely used for a lot more than guitars.If it is anything like the Mahogany it was likely shiped over by the boat load and used for every thing under the sun.As was the Brazilian Rosewood.Just my thoughts on the subject BILL.''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
Ah yes, American luthiers, raping the world's forests one species at a time. Must be nice to live in a morally pure country. Here, we use such silly laws as the Lacey Act to get around the CITES convention and love to use new, illegally harvested stock. Wish we had your higher order ethics. But my nose tends to bleed in those altitudes.
Just doing the right thing is hardly an example of lofty ethics and morals - the Inconvenient truth is that 60% of the Amazons Mahogany is taken by the U.S. and the touted Lacey Act is simply used to prevent that timber being re-exported in any other than finished or value added form.

The more ecologically aware nations simply don't use endangered and predominantly illegally logged rainforest timber. You will not get a nose bleed standing in the gutter - everybody needs to step up on this issue.

Regards, Rusty.
Suggest you read your OP. And get your facts straight before climbing on your pedestal.
Hi Paul- I cant say that I have had any experience with rosewood from Madagascar, I have always relied on darker rosewood from India. I think it's a crying shame that some of the most beautiful woods for our "passion" are being destroyed for one reason or another.
Peace, Donald
This is a real eye-opener, and thanks for posting it Paul. It is easy to look at nice photos of milled tonewood and just think of it in terms of aesthetic properties. It is discomforting, but if we are buying this stuff we are funding the whole production process. Same deal when we put fuel in our car. It gets really depressing because of the scale of the problem - and we numb out thinking that the little bit that we each individually use doesn't count much. But when you add us all together it does.

Obviously the people of Madagascar are not intentionally environmental rapists. They do this to eat. If we all stop buying it and the market collapses they will need to do something else to eat. Might be just as bad for their (and our) environment. So it only works if there is also some reform of economics, and some other hope for poor indigenous people, and that requires good NGOs and then the removal of corrupt governments, and then we all feel hopeless and lose the heart for any further discussion. Very depressing.

So can we do something positive? No more rosewood for me! Guitar building only from sustainable timber from certified sources. And here is a link to a charity (UK based Azafady) that is working to help local people in Madagascar and to protect their environment. I just donated the equivalent value of a set of rosewood back and sides.

Hey Paul - look what you did. You got at least one guy off his arse (correct Aussie spelling), even if only for a moment.
Thank you, Mark, right on. One really good rosewood that has been sustainably harvested for a long time is Indian rosewood, which is used as a shade tree in tea plantations and is harvested in very marketable form about every 40 years. There is guilt-free rosewood, and it's pretty much a hit by most measures.

You hit the nail on the head about the people in Madagascar. They are really up against it.
I love nature. I was a stone mason for many years. Theres nothing more beautiful than a forest.
That said, To blame the onslaught of rain forests/etc on luthiers is a tremendious misconception. If I'm not mistaken, some forests in Brazil were bulldozed and burned to try and produce farmable land which was washed free of any topsoil within a couple of years. All of the guitars from Martin and Gibson together wouldn't be a speck compaired to all the furniture that still resides in most old homes all over the world. I do agree there is a GREAT problem with deforestation, but to lay it at the door of luthiers is in my opion, turn a blind eye to the biggest offenders. I can't tell if Indian rosewood or mahogany is plantation grown or not. I buy my wood from well known, assumably reliable tonewood suppliers. I can't tell if they bought my wood from the black market or not. I was told that madagascar could legally sell thier rosewood. How do I know who sold it?
Please don't take my ranting as I don't care. I do. I will also look into (as best I can) Allied luthier's and LMI's buying standards.
I will not buy nor can I afford Brazilian R/W but would be glad to take any guiltladen guitar type
B/R/W off your hands.....should I burn my D-28? I'm more in line w/ Russell on this one.I'm all for guiltfree playin'& building(novice that I am).Build baby build!!!! Dang!!Now I've lost my one and only tortoise shell pick!!! By the way..Madagascar, revive the forests .A little more conservancy,please.If you cut one, put 2 back!!!What is the age for mature harvesting?100 yrs.?


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