Illegal poachers in Penang

Protecting the ‘Wood of God’
Agarwood trees have been illegally chopped down by poachers in the forest reserves in George Town for its oil extract which fetches a fortune. Known also as the ‘Wood of God’ for its benefits, these trees faces a risk of extinction if not safe guarde

Thursday February 23, 2012

GEORGE TOWN: The illegal felling of gaharu (agarwood) trees appears to be continuing unabated despite extensive media coverage and the state government’s declaration of a crackdown against the thieves.The latest incident involves se-veral gaharu trees in Gambier Hill near Island Park here.

Gurdial Singh, 52, a veteran runner with the Penang Hash House Harriers, came across around 20 felled trees, several of which were gaharu trees, on Tuesday while setting the trail for a run for his group.

“The trees were all from one area, not scattered in the jungle.

“I think they were felled about a week ago, looking at the condition and colour of the wood,” he said yesterday, adding that he believed the trees were felled with a chainsaw.

Gurdial said he also found gunny sacks, lunch packs, plastic bags and water bottles in the vicinity.

He said the area had been green and shady when he passed it last December.

“This place is about a 90-minute walk from the entrance along Jalan Tembaga off Jalan Mesjid Negri,” he said.

Sunday Star had reported on Feb 12 that local syndicates with foreign connections were allegedly felling the highly-valued gaharu trees in the rainforest near the Penang Botanic Gardens and in several other places.

The oil extracted from the agarwood is used for medicine and perfume, and fetches a handsome price in the Middle East.

Gurdial highlighted the matter to the newspaper after he encountered chopped gaharu trees while running in the jungle.

Penang Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Commi­ttee chairman Phee Boon Poh said yesterday that there would be joint operations with the police to tackle the situation, as it was a serious matter.

“The Chief Minister (Lim Guan Eng) has a special task force comprising the relevant agencies to probe further into the illegal activities in the forest,” he said, adding that he would soon issue a press statement about the joint operations.

State Forestry Department assistant director Azahar Ahmad said he would also get his team of officials to investigate.

He added that the public could also contact the department’s 24-hour hotline at 04-826 2716 if they had any information on illegal acti-vities in the forest.

The public can also call 04-650 5250, 017-590 9909 or 016-931 8059 to report illegal felling.

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