See pod of Pterocarpus indicus

Mukula (Pterocarpus tinctorius) CITES proposal

*For updates on the Mukula (Pterocarpus tinctorius) CITES proposal join TIMBERCHECK™

On May 23, 2019 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will begin its annual meeting CoP18.

At this meeting, it will be proposed that Pterocarpus tinctorius, also known as Mukula, be included in the CITES species listing (Appendix II).

The party putting forward the proposal is Malawi.

Here is a copy of the full proposal (#54) obtained from CITES:

Proposal 54

Pterocarpus tinctorius (African padauk, mukula) – Inclusion in Appendix II

Proponent: Malawi

Provisional assessment by the Secretariat

CITES background The genus Pterocarpus includes around 46 species. Two species of this genus are listed under Appendix II, as follows:

– Pterocarpus erinaceus [since 2017]; and,

– Pterocarpus santalinus with annotation #7 (Logs, woodchips, powder and extracts) [since 2007].

Pterocarpus tinctorius, commonly known as mukula, has not been the subject of a listing proposal before.

Purpose and impact of the proposal

The proposal seeks to include Pterocarpus tinctorius in Appendix II (without an annotation), in accordance with Article II of the Convention. If the proposal is adopted, international trade in specimens of P. tinctorius will be regulated in accordance with the provisions of Article IV o the Convention. Furthermore, by not including an annotation, and in accordance with Resolution Conf. 11.21 (Rev. CoP17) on Use of annotations in Appendices I and II, the trade of all specimens of this species would be regulated accordingly.

Compliance with listing criteria

The supporting statement does not specify the Appendix-II listing criteria met, but states that “…it can be inferred that the regulation of trade in [Pterocarpus tinctorius] is necessary to avoid it becoming eligible for inclusion in Appendix I in the near future”. This suggests that the listing is in compliance with Article II, paragraph 2 (a) of the Convention; however, the proposal does not make specific reference to the listing criteria met in compliance with Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP17) on Criteria for amendment of Appendices I and II.

Pterocarpus tinctorius is a rosewood tree species native to Africa’s miombo woodland and is known to occur in the following eight countries: Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.

The proposal presents information gaps on P. tinctorius, particularly regarding: population size, structure, and trends; population monitoring; control measures; and safeguards.

According to the latest assessment of the species under IUCN Red List assessment (dated 2017), the species qualifies under the category “Least Concern”. However, its populations are known to be decreasing. According to the assessment, the main threat is illegal overharvest for timber, which is exacerbated as the species can be traded as an alternative to other species of Pterocarpus that are exhausted or legally protected. Furthermore, the species is traded internationally under the broad name of African padauk, which does not always differentiate among other species of Pterocarpus.

The supporting statement shows that numerous kinds of specimens of the species are used at the national level throughout its range for different purposes (e.g. production of honey, fabric dyes, medicinal purposes, and furniture). However, it is the demand for its timber (particularly rough squared logs and rough sawn timber) that is driving the international trade.

According to the supporting statement, ‘separating legal trade from illegal trade is not a simple task given the spotty data, irregular enforcement and lack of clarity around national regulations in some countries’. But it indicates that ‘Official Chinese data shows skyrocketing imports of rosewood species from African nations – up 700% since 2010. While Pterocarpus tinctorius is not in the official hongmu list, it has achieved market demand due to its lookalike characteristics”. The proposal refers to trade data that estimate that as much as 15,000 tonnes of mukula timber is sold each month.

The supporting statement also includes extensive information on illegal trade from known range States, driven by “immense pressure due to the widespread illegal harvesting accelerated by its high international demand”.

Regarding look-alike aspects, the supporting statement recognizes that the species could be confused with Appendix-II listed species of Dalbergia, as well as with non-CITES listed species such as Pterocarpus angolensis and P. soyauxii. It is unclear however if P. tinctorius resembles Pterocarpus species currently listed in the Appendices, yet this could be the case.

Additional considerations (including relevant CoP recommendations)

The proposal includes no annotation to specify the parts and derivatives that would be included. Consequently, if the proposal is adopted, all parts of derivatives of P. tinctorius would be subject to the provisions of Article IV of the Convention. Considering that the main specimens known to be in international trade are rough squared logs and rough sawn timber, perhaps consideration could be given to include an annotation. As an example, annotation #7 (Logs, woodchips, powder and extracts) would align the listing of Pterocarpus tinctorius with the existing listing of Pterocarpus santalinus.

If adopted, the information gaps reflected in the proposal could be partially addressed by draft decisions on rosewood tree species submitted by the Plants Committee for consideration at the present meeting (see document CoP18 Doc. 74).

Likewise, and if the proposal were to be adopted, range States of P. tinctorius might wish to consider putting in place additional voluntary measures in preparation for the entry into force of the listing of P. tinctorius in Appendix II. These measures could include the establishment of national voluntary export quotas [following the guidance contained in Resolution Conf. 14.7 (Rev. CoP15) on Management of nationally established export quotas], and the inventory of pre-Convention stockpiles.

Provisional conclusions

Based on the information available at the time of writing, although the species seems to be widespread in Africa, its population is known to be decreasing mainly because of unregulated harvest of trees destined for international trade. This, coupled by look-alike considerations, suggests that Pterocarpus tinctorius may meet the criteria for inclusion in Appendix II.

For updates on the Mukula CITES proposal join TIMBERCHECK™.

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Header photo: MNHT


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