Reserve marred by logging

Illegal loggers have destroyed a vast area in the protected Nature Reserve in Son Tra peninsula since last year.

A vast area in the protected Nature Reserve in Son Tra peninsula has been destroyed by illegal loggers for a long time. The illegal action was discovered and stopped by local administration, police and rangers of the Son Tra-Ngu Hanh Son Forest Protection Department on Thursday.

The illegal action was discovered and stopped by local administration, police, and rangers of Son Tra-Ngu Hanh Son Forest Protection Department.

A combined force of police and rangers were called to dismantle shelters in the forest yesterday morning, along with knives, bush hooks and kitchen tools.

The illegal loggers hail from Dai Loc district in Quang Nam Province. They were hired to clear the forest and paid VND180,000 (US$8) a day.

According to local authorities, 20 workers was hired to clear the forest area in an effort to build an ecotourism site in the protected Nature Reserve.

"It's a very serious violation. All clearing of land and trees in the protected forest is a criminal offence. The land owner intentionally destroyed forest for commercial purposes, instead of protecting the forest," said Nguyen Dieu, the director of the city's Natural Resources and Environment office.

"An estimated 5ha of protected forest were logged and cleared in the area. The location was illegally used to develop as a beach entertainment site with big investment," he speculated.

Dieu said his department will collaborate with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Forest Protection sub-department, and other relevant agencies in the city to determine the purpose of illegal violations in the protected forest.

The illegal loggers confessed to police that they had been clearing forest here for several weeks. But biologists said that the destruction started around last October.

Tran Huu Vy, director of the Centre for Conservation for Biodiversity also known as GreenViet, said that the flora system of the buffer zone of Son Tra Nature Reserve mainly provides food for 75 Red-Shanked Doucs (Pygathryx nemaeus), an animal listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The area also shelters Kim Cang (Similax Poilanei Gagnep), a plant listed in Viet Nam's Red Book, as well as various plants which langurs eat.

"We have yet to estimate the loss of biodiversity in the area. But illegal logging destroys the structure of the ecological system and negatively affects the existence and habitat of primates living in the Nature Reserve," Vy said, adding that Son Tra Nature Reserve is home to 300 Red-Shanked Doucs.

Vy said he suspected that the workers snared animals in the area by night. GreenViet volunteers found 150 traps over just a few days of forest field trips.

Vo Dinh Cong, Chairman of Tho Quang ward, said that area residents are responsible to protect their local forest area, for which the government pays them a fee. Since the area in question is part of the Son Tra Nature Reserve, logging, hunting and construction are illegal there.

Cong said local administration and police have been investigating who masterminded the illegal logging and land clearing for commercial purposes.

Last year, Son Tra-Ngu Hanh Son's Forest Protection Department prosecuted a criminal case involving the illegal killing of three Red-Shanked Doucs (Pygathryx nemaeus).

Son Tra Peninsula, which covers 4,439ha, is home to 985 varieties of plants and 378 animal species. The Peninsula sees around 10,000 visitors per month.


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