Unscrupulous timber traders depleting forests 30 kilometres south of Zambia’s Bangweulu Wetlands were stopped in their illegal tracks by the intrepid Bangweulu Wetlands/ZAWA law enforcement team earlier this month.
Acting on a tip-off from an informant, the team intercepted three 30-ton trucks piled high with illegally-harvested Mukulu, a hardwood used traditionally to make flooring and furniture. The surge in cutting and selling the hardwood in Zambia is currently being driven by Asian demand for use in manufacturing gunstocks, flooring and furniture, and increasingly also for the medicinal properties of its bark.
The Bangweulu law enforcement team arrested 16 suspects and also impounded two other vehicles involved in the unlawful activities. All the vehicles used in the execution of the crime were forfeited to the state and more than $10 000 in cash was also seized and handed over to the authorities.
The three-day operation was a resounding victory for the trees and a major blow for the illegal harvesters and traders of Mukula timber in the area. It also demonstrated the benefits of extending operations into a buffer zone beyond the borders of the wetlands which also helps ensure the security of the area for local communities.