Malaysia: Illegal loggers clear 4ha in Gua Musang


GUA MUSANG: ILLEGAL loggers have encroached on Gunung Rabong, here, clearing some 4ha on the fringes of the 16,915ha forest reserve.

It is the latest permanent forest reserve in the state to have been hit by illegal logging syndicates, believed to comprise outsiders and locals operating over the past few years.

The clearing of the forest reserve, situated next to state land and land belonging to Yayasan Islam Kelantan, was uncovered during a state Forestry Department operation last month.

Department director Zahari Ibrahim said it was believed the encroachment on the forest reserve started early last month, based on the size of the cleared area.

“The Gunung Rabong forest reserve is among 38 forest reserves in the state at risk of illegal activities. The forest reserves in Kelantan cover more than 600,000ha,” he told the New Straits Times.

Zahari said the forest reserve was among 50 illegal logging hot spots identified by the department in Kelantan, with most of the areas in Tanah Merah and Gua Musang.

He said a majority of the illegal logging activities in these areas were undertaken in a small scale by villagers hired by syndicates.
“Sometimes, we find villagers working in cahoots with syndicates to earn pocket money.”

Among the areas that had seen rampant illegal logging were Sungai Terah, Batu Papan, Nenggiri, Limau Kasturi and Ulu Galas here and Sokor, Renok Baru and Jedok in Tanah Merah.

The NST team, which joined last month’s operation by the state Forestry Department at the Gunung Rabong forest reserve, saw piles of logs placed in the clearing waiting to be transported by lorries to a stockpile area, also known as “matau”.

The logs were believed to have been cut down by the syndicate with the assistance of villagers.

Checks revealed that new logging tracks were being constructed by the illegal loggers to allow for four-wheel-drive vehicles or lorries to enter.

When the NST team arrived at the scene about 3pm, no vehicles or individuals were in the area.

“It seems our operation here today has been detected by the syndicates,” said a member of the Forestry team, adding that news of an impending raid by the department was often leaked, leading to the cancellation of some operations.

“However, our previous operation was successful as we detained three suspected illegal loggers or syndicate members red-handed.”

It is learnt syndicates used various tactics to evade detection, such as fake documents or fraudulent log removal passes of real loggers.

Zahari said the department planned to increase security features on logging documents, especially log removal passes, as part of efforts to stop illegal logging activities in the state, which he said was “quite serious” compared with other states.

“We believe syndicates use the removal passes of other individuals or companies to move logs cut illegally. We have detected them in a series of operations here and in other districts since July.

“Hence, we will upgrade security features, including introducing watermarks on the documents, to ensure they are not falsified.

“The department had yet to determine whether these syndicates were allowed by the original licence holders to use their passes or if they do it without the knowledge of the holders.

“However, we suspect that there are insiders working with syndicates to misuse the passes or licences.”

On whether the department was authorised to take action against such licence holders, Zahari said the holders could have their licences revoked if there was sufficient evidence.

He said the department would also enhance its standard operating procedure and increase operations against illegal logging.