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IPOH: The Mentri Besar of Perak has confirmed the report in The Star that the felling of four grand old trees in Tasik Temenggor was illegal.
Datuk Seri Mohamad Tajol Rosli Ghazali said three merbau trees and a tualang tree in the forest were felled without permission.
State forestry officers had gone into the area to investigate after The Star reported last Friday that a century-old merbau worth RM60,000 in the timber market was among the trees felled by illegal loggers.
“The Forestry Department found that the trees were felled without permission,” he said yesterday, adding that the department had lodged a police report.
Tajol Rosli said the tualang trees were not valued for their logs but for being host trees for bees to build hives in and produce honey, which was a source of income for the orang asli.
“The move is to ensure that the livelihood of the orang asli community is not jeopardised,” he told reporters after the state executive council meeting yesterday.
The stumps of the merbau and tualang trees were located outside the boundaries of the zone approved for logging concessionaire Tenaga Nasional Bhd.
“The case has been classified as theft,” said Tajol Rosli.
The Forestry Department’s investigation found that the trees were harvested three to four months ago.
“Logically the logs would have been removed by boat via the lake because there is no other exit route.
“As such we suspect that it is connected with underwater logging. It may have to do with TNB’s contractor, his workers or other people,” said the mentri besar.
Asked how rampant timber theft was, Tajol Rosli said: “It is localised in the area; the stealing of trees is common. We will find and blacklist the perpetrators.”
He added that the forestry department kept a record of all trees approved for felling.
In Petaling Jaya, Forestry Department deputy director-general Datuk Shaharuddin Mohamad Ismail said the move to ban the felling of tualang trees in Perak would pave the way for the species to be totally protected in the country.
“It is important for us to protect the tree for the honey,” he said.
Bees love to make their hives on these trees and it remains a mystery why they prefer the tualang over other types of trees.
Shaharuddin said the tualang could grow to a height of 60m and it had been recorded as the third-tallest tree in the world.
“The tualang is currently not protected, but we are studying the possibility of including it in the protected list under the ongoing National Forest Inventory. The inventory, which is done every 10 years, is expected to be completed by the end of this year,” he said.
According to the Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula by Burkill (1966), the tualang is found as far north as Kedah and Kelantan.
It has not been found in Negri Sembilan, nor south of the state. It is most often found in stream valleys, or on the lower slopes of ridges, or foothills, not as a very abundant tree.
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