About 134,000 tree seedlings of Eucalyptus valued at K40 million have been poisoned by suspected illegal timber sawyers at Raiply Malawi’s Champhoyo nursery in the Viphya plantation commonly known as Chikangawa.
Forest manager Nathaniel Nthala decried the development on Friday and said the seedlings would cover up to 86 hectares if planted.
He said they suspect it could be an act of vengeance by illegal timber sawyers who feel victimised by the company’s quest of confiscating their materials and apprehending them.
“During our routine inspection on January 4, we discovered that some seedlings were showing signs of dying. They are dying in the same manner that they used to when we experienced a similar attack at Chauteka nursery which led us to deciding to move to Champhoyo,” Nthara said.
Adding: “This is a closed season and some people have been coming into the forest to harvest timber, as Raiply we have been confiscating their tools and we think this is some sort of retaliation.”
Nthala then expressed concern that during this year’s tree planting season they had prepared 100 hectares for reforestation, but said it will not be possible following the incident.
Asked on measures taken to bring the culprits to book, he disclosed that police were informed and that the scene was visited pending investigations.
“However, we remain skeptical because from the 2015 and 2016 incidents, no one has been arrested. Need I say that we have not received results from the Forestry Institute Management, who always take samples for testing to establish the actual poison sprayed on the seedlings,” Nthara explained.
District Commissioner for Mzimba Thomas Chirwa, who on Friday visited the affected nursery, described the incident as deplorable and pledged his support.
“We are sympathising with Raiply and we will support in any way possible. I want to assure them that we will work with our chiefs to track down the culprits together with our police,” Chirwa said.
He then condemned the act and called on individual timber sawyers who have been at loggerheads with Raiply to invest their energies in replenishing their depleted concessions in the Viphya plantations than waging war on Raiply.
Meanwhile police spokesperson for Mzimba Patrick Botha has said they have commenced investigations and that are helping Raiply in tightening security at their nursery.