Uproar over loss of big tree

PETALING JAYA: The felling of a majestic cengal tree in Terengganu has riled conservationists who want more to be done to protect the nation’s natural heritage.


Natural resource: The widely-shared photo of a trailer hauling large sections of the cengal tree caused anger among netziens and conservationists who are calling for more protection of such natural heritage.


The matter came to light when photographs of a trailer hauling large sections of the tree went viral on social media on Sunday, causing anger among many people.


Malaysian Nature Society president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail said he had proposed to the authorities many times in the past for better forest protection be carried out.


“It is heartbreaking to see such a historic tree that might be important for education, research and tourism cut down for timber products, ” he said when contacted.


He added the government should revise existing laws on forest management to include natural and heritage values as components.


Although land was a state matter, he said the Federal Government could find other ways to have a bigger say in environment protection.


Green Growth Asia Foundation adviser and former chief executive officer of WWF-Malaysia Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said the felling of the tree should not have been allowed.


“It is unthinkable how the administrators of a forest reserve would allow a licensed contractor to fell such a large tree purely for commercial interests, ” he said.


He said such trees should be the subject of studies to better understand the evolution of biological diversity in the wet tropics instead of being cut down for commercial purposes.


Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia president and chief executive officer Andrew Sebastian claimed that there are loopholes in the law which allows for such logging activities to be carried out.


“Although Section 12 of the National Forestry Act calls for the replacement of cleared forest areas, this is not necessarily done in the states.


“There must be a moratorium on logging as we have taken away too much of our forest cover, ” he said.


Association for the Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia (Peka) president Puan Sri Sabrina Syed Akil, who expressed dismay over the incident, said the government should review outdated laws to ensure those in power act for the benefit of the rakyat and the nation.


It was reported yesterday that Terengganu Forestry Department director Roslan Rani confirmed the logs came from a tree which was felled in the Sungai Nipah Forest Reserve before transported to a sawmill in Durian Mas, Dungun.


He said the felling of the tree was done in accordance to regulations and it was later transported to a sawmill in Rawang, Selangor.


The cengal tree is classified as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list for threatened species.


In 1998, a forest ranger discovered the cengal tree in Hulu Dungun, which was listed by the Malaysia Book of Records as the largest tree in the country.


The tree, named “Cengal Besar”, was estimated to be more than 1,300 years old and measured 65m in height with a girth of 16.75m.


In 2004, the then Terengganu mentri besar Datuk Idris Jusoh said the tree was a state treasure and would be used to promote eco-tourism in the state.


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