Taipei, A total of 15 people were indicted on Friday for illegal logging in national forests and killing a Formosan black bear and a Formosan serow, both protected animals endemic to Taiwan.
The Hsinchu District Prosecutors Office presented the indictment against a 52-year-old man, identified only by his surname Ho (何), and 14 members of an alleged criminal organization headed by Ho that logged protected endemic cypresses in national forests.
Alleged members of the so-called “Mountain Rat” ring of illegal loggers were arrested by prosecutors, Forestry Bureau officials and National Police Agency officers on Thursday, with Ho and 14 other suspects detained, most being members of Ho’s family, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said in the indictment that the group had engaged in illegal logging of valuable protected cypresses in the Guanwu National Forest Recreation Area in Wufeng Township, Hsinchu County, for at least one year.
The group was found to have constructed three sheds in the forest to aid their illegal operations and store timber to be later transported down the mountain to sell, prosecutors said.
According to Huang Kuo-pin (黃國賓), a division chief at the 9th Special Police Corps under the National Police Agency, Ho recruited relatives to carry the timber down the mountain, paying them NT$3,000 (US$102) to NT$5,000 each per journey.
He then sold the wood to dealers for NT$30,000 to NT$300,000 per piece, Huang said.
During their search for the illegal logging sites, police, prosecutors and forestry rangers seized about 500 kilograms of valuable cypress wood and some animal carcasses.
It was the carcasses that led them to discover that the suspects caught a Formosan black bear and a Formosan serow using a trap set to catch wild boars, according to the prosecutors.
According to Ho’s testimony to prosecutors, the trap was set to catch wild boars because they suspected the animal had broken into the sheds for food.
After the Formosan black bear was caught in the trap, it was killed with a homemade rifle, Ho said, adding that parts of the animal were then cooked and eaten.
A serow caught in the trap was similarly dealt with, Ho said.
With only an estimated 200 to 600 Formosan black bears believed to exist in the world, the bear is listed as endangered, according to the Taiwan Black Bear Conservation Association.
Formosan serow is categorized in the group of other conservation-deserving wildlife under the Wildlife Conservation Act.
The Hsinchu District Prosecutors Office indicted the illegal loggers on charges of violating the Forestry Act and the Wildlife Conservation Act.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel