While police were distracted by crowds, man illegally cuts trees in Alishan

The black market price of the Taiwanese cypress is NT$230,000

Chiayi County police arrested a man for illegal logging in Alishan (photo courtesy Chiayi County Police)

Chiayi County police arrested a man for illegal logging in Alishan (photo courtesy Chiayi County Police)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Police on Saturday caught a man illegally logging in Alishan National Scenic Area while he thought the police would be too busy controlling traffic with the influx of visitors arriving to see the cherry blossoms.

The 37-year-old man surnamed Chen, who is a resident of Alishan, was spotted attempting to smuggle 181 kg of Taiwan cypress (台灣扁柏, Chamaecyparis taiwanensis) out of the forest, in violation of the Forestry Act. The black market value of that amount of Taiwan cypress is about NT$230,000 (US$7,580), UDN reported.

Earlier in the week police began an investigation as they discovered other trees had been illegal cut down. They managed to trace a trail to Chen and set up a checkpoint along the road to catch him as he smuggled another cypress.

Chen could easily access the park without being checked as he has a vehicle permit because he is a resident of the area. He also knew where the police set up checkpoints along the road, but did not expect them to set up an additional checkpoint on Saturday.

Last March, two Taiwanese men and five Vietnamese migrant workers were arrested for illegal logging Formosan cypress (紅檜/红桧, Chamaecyparis formosensis) in Alishan.

The Taiwan cypress is native to the mountainous areas of the country at altitudes of 1,300-2,800 meters (4,265-9,186 feet). It is a slow-growing coniferous tree with red-brown bark that can grow to 40 meters. It is related to the Formosan cypress that also grows in the area.

Illegal logging in Taiwan carries a penalty of one to seven years in prison and a fine 10 times the value of the wood stolen.