Kosso wood, known botanically as Pterocarpus erinaceus, is commercially considered a rosewood and sometimes referred to as African Rosewood. It’s highly sought after by Kosso buyers for its use in rosewood furniture manufactured in China and Vietnam.
In recent years, as other true rosewood species like Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) and Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa) became increasingly scarce, Kosso wood prices rose dramatically creating a boom in Kosso log trade.
Rosewood CITES Regulation
In response to rapidly diminishing Kosso timber stocks, Kosso was listed under Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This means that all shipments of Kosso wood from West Africa require a CITES document, effective May 9, 2016. Additionally, Kosso was listed under Appendix II along with all Dalbergia (rosewood) species, effective January 1, 2017.
The application of these regulations to all rosewood timber was celebrated as a victory for sustainable rosewood timber management and trade. In the words of CITES, “Thanks to CITES trade regulations, CITES Management Authorities establish the veracity of the legal origins of rosewood and palisander species before they enter international trade, and CITES Scientific Authorities advise on the sustainable nature of the harvest and exports.”
CITES Documentation of Allegedly Illegal Kosso
While the intent of these new rosewood CITES requirements is to create a more sustainable rosewood market, a new report suggests that, in reality, adding this new layer of governance has resulted in little more than additional payments of new bribes to maintain business as usual. Using undercover investigators, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) spent two years meeting with over 30 actors in Kosso timber supply chains between Nigeria and China. According to them, almost all of the Kosso wood exported from Nigeria over the past three years has been illegal including shipments for which CITES certificates were issued.
The EIA report found that “thousands of CITES documents have been used in contravention of the core principals of the Convention”. After Kosso was listed under CITES Appendix III, Chinese officials began seizing Kosso shipments from Nigeria that were not accompanied by a CITES document or were determined to have a fraudulent one. The EIA claims that by the end of 2016 that over 1.4 million Kosso logs were detained in Chinese ports. As a response, influential Nigerian and Chinese businessmen paid over US$ 1 million to senior Nigerian officials. Then “approximately 4,000 CITES documents were retrospectively issued by the Nigerian authorities and were used by Chinese importers to legitimize all of the detained wood.” Read the full EIA Nigeria Kosso report here.
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