New sapphire rush in Madagascar may threaten rare species

Story highlights

  • Madagascar is a major producer of sapphires
  • New rush producing 50 carat stones, compared to world's finest
  • Conservationists fear destruction of rainforest

(CNN)They are adored by royalty and movie stars -- but sapphires could spell trouble for some of the planet's rarest creatures.

Madagascar has become one of Africa's leading producers of the colored gems since they were first discovered on the island in the 1990s, exporting $16.5 million of sapphires, rubies and emeralds in 2015, according to MIT's trade database. This does not include a sizeable black market.
    The northern Corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena is now seeing a major new sapphire rush, delivering much-needed income for miners in a country where over 70% of the population earn less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank. But conservationists claim this windfall comes at a cost. </