The Yunlin County Police Department’s Dounan Precinct has uncovered 3 tonnes of camphor wood illegally logged by residents of Caoling Village (草嶺) in Dounan Township (斗南). It was the first instance of illegal logging committed by local residents and the largest amount of wood uncovered in a raid in the area in recent years.
Police launched the raid in the village, which boasts hundreds of hectares of forest nearby, after receiving an anonymous tip that some residents were taking advantage of their proximity to the wood to engage in illegal logging activities.
Police discovered eight pieces of camphor wood weighing 39.1kg at the residence of a male suspect surnamed Chen (陳) and 149 pieces weighing more than 3 tonnes at the residence of a male suspect surnamed Lai (賴).
The camphor wood uncovered from 62-year-old Chen and 35-year-old Lai — after more than the 1 tonne of camphor wood had been recovered in a previous raid — was openly stacked in the unsheltered backyards of their houses, police said.
Both Chen and Lai claimed that the wood was left behind by their grandfathers, but fresh saw marks on the wood, coupled with the unusually large amount, led police to conclude that both suspects could have engaged in illegal logging for a long time. Officers subsequently charged them with larceny.
Police are still investigating whether Chen and Lai sold the valuable wood for profit.
Illegal logging is rampant around the village due to the high price of hundred-year-old camphor wood and its secluded location, with illegal loggers frequently cutting down prized trees in the dead of night.
Almost all the camphor trees that used to thrive along mountainous tracks near the village have been cut down, leaving the area a camphor tree graveyard.
However, as most illegal loggers carry sharp logging tools and work in groups, sometimes hiring foreign workers, patrol teams consisting of local residents only dare to report suspicious practices to police, rather than attempting to stop the illegal loggers themselves. This makes catching the loggers more difficult.
To clamp down on rampant illegal logging activities, Dounan Precinct has launched a special preventive scheme that seeks to combat the practice by stepping up patrols and roadblocks in mountainous areas near the village.