HULU TERENGGANU: A MEMBER of a group of 12 off-road vehicle owners landed everyone in trouble when wild orchids were found in his vehicle by Forestry Department enforcement officers in Sungai Kelemin in the Jerangau forest reserve here.
The group will soon be charged with encroachment under Section 47(1)(4) of the National Forestry Act and one of them will be slapped with an additional charge under Section 15 of the same act for extracting forest products.
The group was detained during a 10-day integrated operation by the Forestry Department, National Parks and Wildlife Department, and the army, which ends this Thursday.
The group, however, was released on police bail.
State Forestry director Datuk Ahmad Fadzil Abdul Majid said several species of wild orchids worth about RM3,000 were seized from a suspect.
Among the species were Coelogyne cumingii, Coelogyne massangeana, Eria atrovinosa, Bulbophyllum species and Epigeneium zebrinum.
“The group encroached on the forest reserve and camped a night in Compartment 98 of the reserve without obtaining permits from the Forestry Department. They collected plants unlawfully.
“We view this seriously because wild orchids are protected in a forest reserve.
“Such cases of bio-piracy need to be stopped and our enforcement unit will act against anyone who encroaches on forest reserves, even for recreational purposes.
“They need to obtain a permit before entering the reserve and must not collect or harm any plants,” he said, adding that a permit cost RM200 per vehicle.
Fadzil said the detention was the first case so far in the state, but added that he believed such encroachment was widespread because collectors were willing to pay high prices based on the beauty and rarity of the specimens.
“All the seized orchids will be rehabilitated at the Sekayu recreational park.”