Forest plundered

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A century old tree cut down by illegal loggers in the M'Drak forest located in Dak Lak Province

An inspection tour by provincial forest protection officials to M'Drak forest in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak on Tuesday revealed a large area of the protected forest had been devastated by illegal loggers.

A huge number of century old trees had been chopped down at their base and around 15 cubic meters of logged timber had yet to be removed from the forest.

According to the inspectors, the logged trees were around 24-60 centimeters wide.

The M'Drak forest, with its abundant resources, overlaps the bordering areas between Dak Lak and Phu Yen provinces.

The officials who joined the inspection tour were told by the M'Drak District Forest Protection Bureau that loggers had actually paved their way into the forest, but they were discovered and stopped by the bureau's forest rangers.

The bureau tried to downplay the seriousness of the illegal logging by reporting that the logged trees were "only around 30 centimeters in diameter."

The inspectors warned that the loggers will soon return to the forest if the bureau does not take preventive measures to stop them.

Le Van Ba of the M'Drak District Forest Protection Bureau said that upon receiving an instruction from the Dak Lak Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, it sent four forest rangers on July 24 to the site where illegal loggers had penetrated the forest.

He admitted that the bureau's forest rangers had been "neglectful" of their duty to patrol and therefore, only became aware of the loggers' activity 20 days after it occurred.

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After a meeting with the bureau, the Forest Protection Departments of Dak Lak and Phu Yen provinces agreed to establish a joint taskforce of rangers who will stand at the forest's gate and regularly patrol the site where loggers had paved their way into the forest to chop down trees with high-powered machinery.

The Dak Lak Forest Protection Department said police will be invited to investigate the illegal logging.

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