By RENSON MNYAMWEZI
Three senior Kenya Forest Service (KFS) personnel have been interdicted for allegedly selling seven tonnes of the East African Sandalwood tree in Taita-Taveta County.
The officers, among them, a forester, inspector, and a sergeant sold trees worth about Sh105 million.
The county’s Zonal Forest Manager Allan Ongere said the accused officers colluded with unscrupulous traders.
“The plants were stored as exhibits in a case involving some of the rangers, but later went missing. At the time I was on leave,” he said.
The officer said a tonne of the valuable tree is locally sold at Sh7 million while in the international market it goes at Sh15 million.
Speaking to The Standard in Wundanyi town Thursday, Mr Ongere said the officers had already received their interdiction letters.
“The case is being handled at the KFS headquarters and if the officers are found guilty action will definitely be taken against them,” he said.
Ongere at the same time said two forest guards who were earlier charged with theft of the plant in the area locally known as ‘kijulu’ have been acquitted.
Unscrupulous traders have indiscriminately been cutting down the plant and smuggling it out of the country through the Kenya-Tanzania border.
Ongere said the plant is threatened with extinction due to indiscriminate exploitation and illegal trade. The worst hit areas are Kasigau hill forest in Voi District and Wumingu and Kishushe locations in Taita District.
A conservationist and project coordinator of Nyangala Resource Centre Ezra Mdamu said a kilogramme of the wood is sold at about Sh1,500 in Tanzania while those who engage in the business locally only fetch as little as Sh20.