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HDNet’s ‘Dan Rather Reports’ Investigates Illegal Harvesting of Some of the World’s Rarest Trees

November 16, 2009

DALLAS, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ — This Tuesday’s “Dan Rather Reports” will feature never-before-seen footage from the island of Madagascar, where an ecological horror show is taking place. Madagascar’s national parks are, according to scientists, being raped by loggers who are illegally chopping down rare and extremely valuable rosewood trees. The recently obtained video shows loggers hauling the trees out of the forests by hand.

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Each of these trees is worth thousands of dollars on the international market, but the desperate residents of Madagascar are cutting them down for only a few dollars a day.

The images presented in this story were taped as a part of an undercover investigation by two international conservation groups, looking to make the case for prosecutions in the trade of these trees and prosecution of foreign businesses who use this illegal wood for their products.

The illegal logging also threatens the habitat for the rare silky sifaka lemurs, which live exclusively on the island. Originally thought to be extinct, scientists have found a few groups on the island, but their habitat is now threatened by the logging. Tomorrow’s program will also air the only known high definition footage of these unique creatures in their natural habitat.

“Things are not pretty in Madagascar right now,” said Andrea Johnson, a representative for the Environmental Investigation Agency, or EIA, one of the conservation groups that backed this undercover investigation. “It’s not as though there was never illegal logging before 2009. But the situation since the coup in February of ’09 has made everything a whole lot worse.”

That’s when dozens of people died as the military opened fire into a crowd, unleashing panic across the country. The military went on to oust the country’s president — chaos reigned and the economy dissolved. The impoverished people streamed into the forests looking to make a quick buck in the illegal rosewood trade. Ebony trees are also taken from Madagascar’s forests and the precious lumber is in high demand.

The majority of rosewood and ebony is used for high-end furniture products and musical instruments, especially guitars.

“Dan Rather Reports: Treasure Island” premieres on HDNet, Tuesday, November 17 at 8:00 p.m. ET with a re-air at 11:00 p.m. ET to accommodate West Coast Prime Time.

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