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Monday November 4, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday November 4, 2013 MYT 9:10:35 AM
by royce tan
GEORGE TOWN: Agarwood (gaharu) poachers managed to evade authorities in a raid organised by the state Forestry Department.
The raiding team of eight forest rangers hiked up to the peak of Mount Olivia, near Mount Erskine, on Friday afternoon following a tip-off from the public.
However, they only found a campsite with empty water bottles and various food containers.
It was a steep 500m hike to the peak, which is approximately 260m above sea level.
“The tents were able to accommodate at least eight people.
“We believe that these people are mobile and will switch locations once they’re done chopping down the valuable trees, so it is usually hard to trace them.
“We discovered two agarwood trees which were recently felled on the way up.
“The poachers had chopped the trees into smaller pieces to be processed or sold,” said Penang Forestry Department officer Samsul Kamal Buyong, who led the raiding team.
The sawdust surrounding the felled trees indicated that the poachers are now sawing the tree instead of chopping it with an axe.
Penang Hash House Harriers veteran runner Gurdial Singh, 53, who tipped off the authorities, said the sawing process was much quieter.
“I bumped into three foreigners taking a breather at the campsite during a run in the forest on Thursday evening.
“Fearing they could be armed, I continued running.
“It was too risky for me to go after them alone, so I notified the authorities and guided them there,” he said.
Police also surrounded the entrances to the hill during the raid, but left empty handed.
The Star reported on Oct 11 that agarwood poachers were making a comeback after laying low for several months, with popular poaching hotspots being Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi forests.
Last November, two Cambodian men were caught by the state Forestry Department officers, also following a tip-off from Gurdial.
Two others managed to escape when they noticed the forest rangers and policemen surrounding their campsite deep inside the jungle behind the Mount Erskine market.
Two large pieces of agarwood, believed to be worth between RM50,000 and RM100,000, were recovered along with axes, machetes and chisels.
Agarwood oil is used for medicine and perfume, and fetches a handsome price in the Middle East.
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Courts & Crime, gaharu
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