GEORGE TOWN: Two Cambodian men have been caught stealing prized gaharu (agarwood) wood by felling the trees in a jungle near Taman Lembah Permai in Tanjung Bungah.
State Forestry Department offcers arrested the duo, who are believed to be in their late 20s, on Monday after ambushing them in the forest following a tip-off from Penang Hash House Harriers veteran runner Gurdial Singh.
Two other men, also believed to be Cambodians, fled the scene. The poachers were believed to have felled at least five highly-valued agarwood trees there.
One of the suspects led the Forestry Department officers to their campsite deep in the forest in Mount Erskine near a waterfall where they live.
The officers recovered two large pieces of gaharu wood, believed to carry a price tag of between RM50,000 and RM100,000 each, at the campsite.
They also recovered items such as axes, machetes and chisels, which were used to chop the wood into smaller pieces.
The suspects were heard telling the officers that there were six of them operating in the forest and the buyer of the wood was a local. They admitted that they knew it was against the law.
“This is only my third day here. I’ve never done this before,” said one of the suspects, adding that they were paid RM1,000 for 1kg of the wood.
Gurdial said he spotted the suspects some three months ago but did not dare approach them, fearing that they were armed.
He was with a friend when he heard the sound of trees being chopped on Saturday afternoon and reported the matter to the Forestry Department.
On Sunday night, a team of five officers hiked up the forest from Taman Lembah Permai to investigate and identify the tracks used by the poachers.
Penang Forestry Department officer Samsul Kamal Buyong, who led the operation, said the two suspects were being remanded by the police for seven days.
Sunday Star had highlighted that local syndicates with foreign connections were allegedly felling agarwood trees illegally in the rainforest near the Penang Botanic Gardens here and in other places.