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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Musicians allowed to take a bow
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, The Hague

Hear the quality ... pau brasil is the choice for top-class fiddlers
Top-flight violinists will be able to travel unhindered by endangered species restrictions after a compromise was reached on the wood in their bows.

Professionals frequently use bows made from the pau brasil tree.

The CITES meeting approved Brazil's proposal to put trade restrictions on the wood after a deal was made to exclude finished products.

Conservation groups were disappointed that a bid to protect endangered cedar species failed.

Latin American and Caribbean countries, which are home to cedars of the Cedrela genus, accused the European Union of not consulting them adequately before proposing trade restrictions.

With no support from the range states, the EU was forced to withdraw its proposal, which would have put these species on Appendix 2 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Cedrela species are unrelated to the cedar families of the Middle East, Europe, East Asia and North America.

Musical delights

Pau brasil (Caesalpinia echinata), also known as Brazil wood or pernambuco, is the tree that gave the country its name. But over the centuries, about 95% of its original range in the Mata Atlantica coastal forest has disappeared.

We are inspired by the hope that it will remain a feature of our landscape and continue to delight us in the hands of musicians across the world
Fernando Coimbra,
Brazilian CITES delegate
Its hard, red wood was used by Europeans first for dye, later coming into favour in musical instrument bows.

"It is necessary to protect this valuable species that is threatened but also known to be the best species for musical instruments," Brazil's delegate Fernando Coimbra told the CITES conference as he launched a bid to have the species listed on Appendix 2.

"We are inspired by the hope that it will remain a feature of our landscape and continue to delight us in the hands of musicians across the world."

As it stood, that proposal would have obliged violinists to carry permits validating their right to take their pau brasil bows through border controls.

An amendment restricted the CITES listing, and need for permits, to the raw wood.

Conservation groups were pleased by the listing.

"It's been over-exploited for centuries, and only about 5% of its original habitat remains," noted Bernardo Ortiz-von Halle, director of the South American office of the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic.

Too late?

They were less pleased by the outcome on the cedar proposal, which had been a priority for some conservation NGOs here.

Threatened organisms listed on three appendices depending on level of risk
Appendix 1 - all international trade banned
Appendix 2 - international trade monitored and regulated
Appendix 3 - trade bans by individual governments, others asked to assist
"Uplisting" - moving organism to a more protective appendix, "downlisting" - the reverse
Conferences of the Parties (COPs) held every three years
CITES administered by UN Environment Programme (Unep)
The EU always votes as a bloc within CITES, and as Germany currently holds the EU presidency, it fell to their delegate Jochen Flasbarth to give some official reaction.

"The range states felt they were not in position to support the EU proposal," he told reporters, "and we believe there's no sense in such a situation to seek a decision against range states. We are a little disappointed."

The cedar proposal, along with two on rosewoods, will now go into a committee that is expected to come up with a form of words that everyone can agree to, though it is not likely to include any binding commitments.

"Leaving aside arguments on procedure, the arguments which range states are making is exactly the same as they were making on mahogany 15 years ago," said Mr Ortiz-von Halle.

"They're saying 'we don't have the information, we need more research, so we can't decide'. If they had acted on mahogany 15 years ago, it would have a much greater chance of success now."

CITES adopted big leaf mahogany in 2002 after years of campaigning by environment groups. The species remains categorised as vulnerable to extinction.


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