Authorities in the central province of Quang Nam reported that at least four illegal loggers were killed and five others injured during a massive rush on a medicinal seed.
Phan Tuan, director of the provincial Forest Protection Department, told news website VnExpress Wednesday that thousands had flocked into protected forests in the mountainous districts of Nam Tra My, Bac Tra My, Nam Giang and Phuoc Son over the last week to harvest the seeds of the uoi, known as Malva Nut or Taiwan Sweet Gum Tree (Sterculia lychnophora).
“The casualties either fell out of the trees or were crushed by falling tree branches and trunks,” he said.
In Nam Tra My District alone, three people (including a 15-year-old boy) died between June 26 and July 1 in their rush on duoi uoi seeds.
Tuan added that local authorities had confiscated more than 11 tons of the seeds, 30 electric saws and a large number of hatchets and hooks from the illegal loggers.
Six trucks and 25 motorbikes were also seized.
A large number of old duoi uoi trees in Quang Nam's protected forests were recently devastated by illegal loggers rushing to capitalize on the approaching ripening of the duoi uoi fruit.
The Quang Nam provincial government issued an urgent order for provincial forest protection authorities, forest management boards and police to coordinate a crackdown on illegal logging activities and beef up patrols and checkpoints to intercept the transportation and trade of the duoi uoi seeds.
The Malva Nut Tree is native to mainland Southeast Asia; its seeds are used in traditional Chinese medicine to ease gastrointestinal disorders and soothe soar throats.
In Vietnam, duoi uoi seeds fetch between VND250,000-300,000 (US$11.7-14) per kilogram, enough to create a rush among the area's significant population of rural poor.