Central Highlands' last rosewood forest close to extinction
  • | VNA, dtinews | July 18, 2011 02:20 PM

Dak Uy, the only rosewood forest in the Central Highlands, is close to complete destruction because of illegal logging.

Rosewood cut down right in front of the Dak Uy forest management board (photo by VTCNews)

Because rosewood makes up around 30% of Dak Uy Forest, it has become a magnet for illegal loggers. Most other forests in the Central Highlands have already been stripped of this type of timber.

Insufficient protection

This forest is located between Dak Mar and Dak H’ring communes, in Dak Ha District, Kon Tum Province. Easily accessed by many directions, the forest has no buffer zone besides agricultural land of the locals.

There are only 17 rangers to protect 700ha of forest.

In the meantime, loggers have started using more sophisticated methods. They used to come under cover of night and chop down entire trees, which made detection easier. Now they have begun to saw down smaller portions of the trees, making it difficult for officials to catch them. They also have started using methods which, even though they are slower, make less noise.

They are also quite aggressive, carrying weapons, which they do not hesitate to use. So far this year there were three incidents of rangers being attacked. They even attempted to ransack the forest protection management board\'s headquarters on March 13.

Since early this year, the forest protection and management board discovered 70 violations; 8 in July alone. All of these cases were detected after the fact.

Stricter measures

According to Le Van Dung, head of the forest management board, punishments imposed on illegal loggers are not strong enough to prevent violations. People who cut down between 2-5 cubic metres of wood are fined VND100-200 million (USD4,800-USD9,600). Only people who cut more than five cubic metres are prosecuted.

Meanwhile, a cubic metre of rosewood valued at between VND500-700 million (USD24,270-USD33,980) making it very attractive to would-be loggers. Dung said, “We are determined to protect the forest, but our force is too thin.”

Dung disclosed that nearly all the large rosewood trees have been cut down.

Over the past years, Kon Tum Province has held many conferences to seek ways to protect the forest. One of key measures is handing over supervision of the forest to locals or businesses who could help protect them.

Dung added that besides rosewood, the forest is home to many other types of trees, as well as animals animals. According to him, for this reason, it should be considered a "preservation area" which would be managed by a specific agency.

“Then, any forest destruction would be considered theft of public property. Stricter punishments are needed,” Dung said.

Public concerns

However, public opinions have raised questions about the attitude of the Dak Uy management board. Loggers have cut down rosewood trees right in front of protection staff tents.

In fact, some local authorities have been involved in some cases. One of these involved the chief of a commune police station, who was dismissed for aiding illicit logging activities in 2010.

Forest decimation (photo by VTC News)

A rosewood tree cut down (photo by Lao Dong)

The illegally-cut wood kept at the forest management board (photo by Tien Phong)

Another tree cut turned to timber (photo by Tien Phong)

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