Foreign syndicates are behind the increase of illegal trade in Mukula logs, says Zambian Lands Minister Jean Kapata.
In the latest incident, a scheme of forging export permits had been foiled and a Chinese national was arrested, according to the minister.
“The situation is worrying because Zambia is losing precious species to the illegal trade, which is on the increase around the country. Foreign nationals are especially involved in this illicit trade,” Kapata said.
Last year, Zambia imposed an export moratorium on all timber species, including Mukula trees, and brought in the army to intensify patrols. In the wake of the ban, more than US$20 000 worth of Mukula had been seized by law enforcement agencies.
Kapata said the arrested Chinese national allegedly forged forestry department papers and signatures of officers to transport Mukula logs valued at US$285 000.
“It is said foreigners who came into the country disregarded the laws of the land and started illegal harvests of prohibited Mukula trees.”
Earlier in the year, a regional investigation into the smuggling of the endangered tree linked wealthy Chinese syndicates to the illegal trade in Zambia and its neighbours.
The investigation also revealed that an estimated 250 to 300 containers of raw Mukula logs are sent to China monthly. It represents a region-wide decimation of the resource whose monetary value is estimated at US$16 million per month.
The route is believed to be the same as used for trafficking rhino horn, ivory and other wildlife contraband.