MAPUTO An anonymous tip-off has enabled officials from the Forestry and Wildlife Services in the central Mozambican province of Zambezia to prevent an attempt to smuggle large amounts of illegally logged timber out of the Muaquiua area in Mocuba district.

Forestry wardens, accompanied by members of the environmental police unit, followed the tip-off and found a man named Agostinho Madembe loading more than 20 logs of a precious hardwood known as chanfuta onto a truck he was driving.

The man was warned that, under Mozambican environmental legislation, equipment used in illegal logging can be seized, but paid little attention to the warning. He managed to lock the cab of the truck and slip away into the bush. The authorities reacted by emptying all the tyres of air, so that the truck cannot be moved.

The wardens, accompanied by a crew from the independent television station STV, found that the local community was collaborating with illegal loggers.

A community leader said the loggers had promised them 70,000 meticais (about 1,430 US dollars) for their co-operation. Members of the community who spoke to STV justified the theft of hardwood on the grounds that they were suffering from hunger and poverty.

If properly marketed, the 20 chanfuta logs could sell for around a million meticais.

Eugenio Manhica, head of the Zambezia forestry and wild life department, said that, regardless of the attitude of the local community, the authorities would pursue the case “so that the authors of the crime are held responsible for their acts”.

The illegal logging took place inside a legally granted timber concession. A representative of the concession, Erasmo Valente, said he had every intention of taking the case to court, so that the illegal loggers and their accomplices in the community would learn that they cannot cut down trees however and wherever they like.

Source: AIM