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Stiffen penalties for timber thieves – wildlife society

By NANCY SIAME and MWAPE MWENYA
THE Wildlife and Environment Conservation Society of Zambia (WECSZ) is concerned about the continued indiscriminate cutting and illegal exportation of indigenous trees.
Society president Joseph Chikolwa said at a media briefing in Lusaka yesterday that the increase in the number of reported cases of illegal cutting and export of unprocessed logs of red wood, commonly known as Mukula tree is of serious concern.
“It appears that the illegal timber trade is too lucrative for the current penalties to be an effective deterrent,” Mr Chikolwa said.
He said the vice has a negative impact not only on the environment but it also robs the country of its required resources as well as job creation.
Mr Chikolwa said although arrests have been made and culprits taken to court, the sentences meted out do not appear to have deterred the continued plunder of the trees.
Mr Chikolwa said the punishment must be revised so that it can be a deterrent.
He said the fines imposed and the sentences given seem not to commensurate with the seriousness of the crime.
“It appears that the illegal timber trade is too lucrative for the current penalties to be an effective deterrent,” he said.
Mr Chikolwa said the society lauds the proposed action taken by the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection in setting up a task force to deal with the crisis.
He said despite the prevailing legislation prohibiting the export of raw logs, timber has continued to find its way to various ports.

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