Wild evergreen trees that produce the highly valued agarwood are being cut down in the forested areas of Hong Kong by suspected illegal loggers from the mainland.
Photographer Tony Ma recently uploaded a series of pictures on his Facebook account showing the wanton destruction of aquilaria sinensis, which produce the fragrant wood, Headline Daily reports.
Agarwood is said to be as highly prized as gold in the mainland, where it is used to make perfumes, incenses and medicines.
Ma’s pictures show toilet paper hanging from tree branches, apparently meant to lead the illegal loggers to the part of the forest where agarwood could be found.
Following the toilet paper trail, Ma was led to a clearing where the trees had been chopped.
He said cigarette butts were found scattered around, indicating that several men were involved in the chopping of the trees.
Jim Chi-yung, chair professor of geography at the Hong Kong University, said some illegal migrants from the mainland pretend to be mountain climbers by day to spot agarwood and return at night to chop down the trees.
The illegal activities are becoming rampant, with some loggers entering private property to cut down agarwood planted by locals, the report said.
Barrister Albert Luk said those found cutting down agarwood could face an imprisonment term of 10 years, while those who break into private property could be jailed for 14 years.