Madagascan Sapphire Haul Threatens Remote Rainforests

Dig beneath the surface of many a deforestation disaster and you'll find greed lurking. Madagascar is no different thanks to a recent sapphire rush that has generated worldwide interest from gem hunters, who are being blinded by the undoubted beauty and rarity of the country's brilliant blue, enormously precious stones.

Pressure groups are hoping for military intervention

Apparently tens of thousands of prospectors have already arrived in Madagascar's remote eastern rainforests in search of the costly gemstones, and they're busy disfiguring a region that is supposed to be officially  protected, an environmental no-go area. The situation is so bad that officials in the country are threatening military intervention.

The problem is the sheer, magical quality of the gemstones being found in the incredibly biodiverse area called the Corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena. More have been dug up there during the past six months than have been found in the whole of the country in the past two decades, making this a gold rush-type event of legendary proportions. In fact it is being labelled the most important gemstone discovery in Madagascar for the past thirty years.

Thousands of acres of forest are being felled

The tiny village of Bemainty, once remote and quiet, is now teeming with miners and gem traders, who are busy felling thousands of acres of forest in the protected area. The environmental group Conservation International helps manage the region and they are horrified by the destruction of the forest, which is widely known as one of the island nation's most precious resources.

Madagascar already produces about half of the planet's high-end sapphires, around $150 million worth every year. But the latest rush is without precedent, a chaotic six month-long environmental tragedy that has already led the government over there to declare the protection of the region a national priority.

Officials are unable to control the sapphire rush

Sadly, so far local officials have been completely unable to control the ongoing rush, and have had very little help despite making numerous requests for military support. Some say it's because ‘too many influential people' are involved in trading the stones, another testament – as if one was needed – that human greed and short sightedness still holds sway over environmental concerns.

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