An estimated 50 tons of wood were confiscated and ten people arrested on Thursday during a mass operation to address the illegal wood-chopping in the Magaliesberg in Hartbeespoort.
The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), Brits cluster police, Afriforum and Sanral, with assistance of the neigbourhood watch and security companies, descended on wood vendors along Hartbeespoort roads on Thursday morning, confiscating wood and arresting the vendors. Authorities also descended on locations, divulged by arrested suspects, about alleged depots for the illegal wood.
The operation was welcomed by the community and conservation bodies attempting to stop the devastation caused by the illegal chopping of wood in the Magaliesberg Biosphere.
Afriforum, in conjunction with the environment department, is currently establishing an ongoing project to address the issue.
“We are financing billboards to create awareness that will be erected at key points soon and a task team is being formed to actively take action against the illegal wood choppers,” said Nelis Janse van Rensburg from the Hartbeespoort Afriforum branch.
“We will soon have a meeting with all role players and individuals in Hartbeespoort to establish an ongoing plan of action. Funds have been allocated to assist with intelligence gathering via a drone, amongst other things, as well as helicopter assistance during future operations. Afriforum will also put pressure on Madibeng and it will be held accountable for enforcing regulations around protecting the biosphere.”
In the mean time the environment department has indicated that a follow-up operation and arrests can be expected within the next few weeks.