In a secluded mountainous region of Hsinchu County, Atayal Aborigines living in Smangus Village (司馬庫斯) have set up a forest patrol station to guard against tree poachers.
Leading the effort is Smangus Community Council secretary Lahuy Icyh, who has been active in protecting the forest for years.
“The patrol station is a small wooden hut at the entrance of a footpath leading to the Smangus mountain forest, home to clusters of giant cypresses. Its aim is to protect the forest and defend our traditional territory,” Icyh said.
He said that every day after sunset, two Atayal village youths guard the station, which comprises staying overnight in the hut and conducting patrols on foot through the cypress forest.
“The forest is very beautiful at night. In the dark, it is like a carnival of nocturnal animals. Formosan muntjacs, flying squirrels, forest owls and other creatures become very active after the sun sets, and in the summer they are joined by fireflies,” Icyh wrote in an online post after completing a round of night patrol duty with his cousin Moto.
The message was intended to bring the magic of the forest to others’ attention and attracted many encouraging responses, some of which also warned Icyh to be careful while on patrol.
“Our village launched the ‘Defend Our Forest’ program in 2005. When taking visitors on guided tours, we remind them to not litter, chop down trees, light camp fires, hunt or fish using poisons or electric devices,” Icyh said.
The night patrol program and station were established in response to timber thieves illegally logging ancient trees in the nearby forest of Jhensibao (鎮西堡).
“The initiative is also intended to protect a large tract of original cypress forest to the east of Smangus, on the western slopes of the Snow Mountain Range (雪山山脈). Everyone in our village is determined to work together to prevent the destruction of this forest in traditional Aboriginal territory,” Icyh said.
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