Thirteen held for felling trees
Nyagatare – Thirteen people have been arrested for illegally transporting rare indigenous trees found in natural forests located in Nyagatare and Gatsibo districts.
The tree known by its scientific name as, Euclea schimperi, is also locally referred to as Imishipiri.
According to the police, the tree, which is a raw material for manufacturing of perfumes and other cosmetics, is smuggled through Uganda to India, Philippines, Singapore, among other destinations.
Police spokesman Superintendent Theos Badege confirmed the arrests, adding that illegal exploitation of trees was unacceptable.
He warned those involved in the illegal acts that they would face the full force of the law.
“We work closely with Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA). So, when such cases appear, we enforce the law,” said the Police Spokesman.
“Illegal cutting of trees is punishable by the law...we don’t mind the reasons. Suspects are held by the police and will appear before the court to answer charges.”
Phoebe Mukamana, an official with Rwanda National Forest Authority in the province, said the tree species were endangered.
Mukamana noted that the evergreen Euclea schimperi is close to its ecological limit and very rare.
She said the felling of the tree species had been silently on going for a while.
“The tree’s habitat is found in isolated, scattered woodland in the districts of Gatsibo, Nyagatare and Kayonza. The cutting of the tree infringes law no. 47/1988 of 5/12/1988 on the protection of forests,” she explained.
Fred Atuhe Sabiti, the Mayor of, Nyagatare, the most affected district, said authorities were determined to curb the illegal acts.
He said at least 90 percent of those involved in cutting the trees had been nabbed.
“Courts at first handled it as a mere crime of cutting trees...but this is now known as an organised crime of smuggling a special tree from Rwanda. They now hand down maximum punishments that range from six months to three years,” he said.
All the 13 suspects are expected to appear before the court today.
Contact email: Stephen.rwembeho[at]newtimes.co.rw