Qatar: Two Latin American trees protected at CITES talks


Two trees were given protection yesterday at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference taking place in Doha, Qatar.

John Donaldson, Chair of Committee I, announced that CITES trade controls would enter into force in 90 days for holywood (Bulnesia sarmientoi) and Brazilian rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora). "The holywood is a tree of great cultural and economic value praised for its aromatic properties and the texture of the wood," he said. Limited in range to the Gran Chaco ecosystem shared among Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and southwest Brazil.

Historically, the harvest of the species for its timber had a traditional character: handicrafts, wood-turned items, posts, tools and so on. Recently, its timber has started being used in flooring and fine furniture that fetches very good prices in the international markets.

The essential oil of this tree, known as ‘guayacol’, ‘guajol’ or ‘guayaco’, is obtained by distillation and it is widely used in the perfume industry because of its mild and pleasant fragrance, which is similar to the rose and, to a lesser extent, violet. Its ethyl acetate is used as a natural fixative in rose aromatic compositions. It can also be used to perfume luxury soap by masking the unpleasant smell of synthetic components and as an excipient in the manufacturing of cosmetics.

This wood is also appropriate for turning on the lathe. It is used to produce numerous items that are highly valued because of their attractive colours and the delicate aroma of the wood.

The Brazilian rosewood has historically been subject to unsustainable exploitation to obtain linalool-rich essential oil from its timber. The essential oil is used as a fragrance ingredient in fine perfumes and as a fixative for perfumes. Linalool is also an used to produce several highly valuable compounds for the perfume and fragrance industry. Between 18 tons and 20 tons of timber are needed to produce one drum of essential oil (180 kg), and a tree of appropriate size weighs about 1.75 t.

Close to 13,000 tons of rosewood essential oil were exported between 1937 and 2002, but the 1990s witnessed a dramatic decrease in the production of this commodity. In 1994, Brazil produced only 59 tons of essential oil. The main importing countries of the product from the State of Amazonas at the time were the United States, France, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In the markets of Manaus, a litre of essential oil reached the selling price of USDĀ 80.00. The drop in supply was due to several reasons, including decades of unsustainable harvests.

The CITES member States have also removed the controls for lipsticks and other products containing candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica). These products are traded in enormous quantities through a complex supply chain.

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