Vietnam: Illegal logging cuts down national park

Hundreds of trees are being cut down in Yok Don National Park in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam, despite efforts from forest management officers.

As many as 470 forest violations, mostly illegal logging cases, have been documented this year, while 200 cubic metres of wood have been seized, according to Do Quang Tung, director of Yok Don National Park.

The park covers an area of 113,853 ha, spreading across 7 communes of Dak Lak Province and Dak Nong Province.

Statistics from the park showed that three trees are cut down by illegal loggers every day, as the park loses nearly 100 trees every month.

Illegal logging has occurred in the park for years due to its vast area and the fact that it is the only place in Viet Nam that has many kinds of trees.

Another reason is that there are over 50,000 ethnic people living in the buffer zone, whose livelihoods rely heavily on forest resources.

Most of the residents are poor and have low levels of education, therefore putting pressure on the national parks.

A cubic metre of rare wood is worth as much as four tonnes of rice, so local residents turn to logging, instead of focusing on cultivation.

However, due to the forest rangers’ efforts in patrolling the forest and working with local authorities, army and defence forces, the number of violations have decreased, compared with 870 cases last year.

Yet, Tung said it had become more difficult to combat illegal loggers, as most violations by local residents occured on a small scale.

Illegal loggers took advantage of being in the forest with their animals or cultivation to cut down small trees whose diametres are under 30cm. Then this wood was cut into pieces to carry out of the forest, he said.

It remains very difficult to discover such cases, because when illegal loggers were discovered, they left the wood and fled from the scene, according to the director.

Due to the park’s flat terrain, with over 300km of foot paths, forest rangers are powerless in controlling the number of people who come in and out of the forest.

This has resulted in only 10 per cent of the discovered violations having been settled.

He also blamed enforcement problems on the limited number of available forest rangers and a lack of equipment.

Yok Don is one of the country’s largest national parks, with 113,853 hectares, but there are only 217 forest rangers enforcing the law. With the current situation, there must be two forest rangers for every 500ha of forest, instead of one ranger as set by normal standards.

In a further effort to stop illegal logging, the park’s management unit focused on stopping the illegal transportation of forest products at localities and maintained a list of violators, Tung said.

Also, officials would continue to raise local residents’ awareness about illegal logging and its negative impacts and implement community development programmes to improve their living standards, he said.

It was also necessary to increase co-operation between forestry officers and agencies at communes to combat illegal logging, Tung said.

Yok Don National Park is the only National Park in Viet Nam which protects the special Dry Dipterocarp forest.

The Dry Dipterocarp forest is the only forest in the world that has adapted special mechanisms to shed leaves during the dry season and refoliate trees when the first rain arrives.

The park also contains many International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Redbook listed flora and fauna species.

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