Air operation to identify illegal woodcutting hotspots – nature conservation members attacked

Wood confiscated during an operation to curb the destruction of the Magaliesberg mountain.

Members of the department of nature conservation were attacked by illegal wood choppers in Broederstroom on Wednesday when they wanted to confiscate wood during another operation to address the devastation of the Magaliesberg mountain range.

In renewed attempts to address the illegal wood-chopping in the protected Magaliesberg Boishpere, a second operation in so many weeks was conducted in Hartbeespoort on Wednesday to identify hotspots in the mountains. Despite requests from DEDECT, police members and traffic officials did not take part in the operation.

A number of aircraft of Flying for Freedom assisted the North West Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism (DEDECT), Afriforum and members of neighbourhood watches to do a survey on the illegal activities and the extent of the destruction in the protected Magaliesberg Biosphere.
“We now have a good idea of where the culprits operate from. Following the massive wood confiscating operation two weeks ago, this week there was remarkably little activity in the area during the operation. This is the second in a series of operations planned. We ask that the community supports us in this endeavour to save our mountain,” said Nelis Janse van Rensburg of Afriforum.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 was formed to actively take action against the illegal wood choppers.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.”

Follow-up operations will follow soon.
During the operation two weeks ago an estimated 50 tons of wood were confiscated from roadside vendors and ten people were arrested. Residents are urged not to buy wood from roadside vendors.