Police in North Western Province have impounded nine trucks with mukula logs. Eight people were arrested.
More than 30 trucks countrywide have been impounded over the last month, in what appears to be an upsurge in the illicit trade of the endangered trees.
“Eight out of the nine drivers are in police custody to help with investigations. One of the drivers is on the run,” said North Western Police Commissioner Auxensio Daka.
Recently, law enforcement officers in the province intercepted 13 trucks in separate incidents, and recovered more than 2 000 logs of mukula. Similarly, police and forestry officials in Muchinga Province, another province with the sought-after trees, seized more than 1 000 logs during the same period.
Last year, at the height of an intensified fight against the illegal harvest and trade in mukula, President Edgar Lungu called in the army. Government also barred its export and transport through Zambia from neighbouring countries. The ban remains.
Following the crackdown, mukula logs valued at more than US$20 million were seized.
Earlier in the year, a regional investigation into the smuggling of the logs linked wealthy Chinese syndicates to the illegal trade in Zambia and its neighbours.
The investigation also revealed that currently an estimated 250–300 containers of raw mukula logs are being sent to China every month. This represented a region-wide decimation of the resource. Its monetary value is estimated at US$16 million per month.
Apparently, the smuggling route is the same as the one used for trafficking rhino horn, ivory and other wildlife contraband.