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Aromatic recollections | Offbeat HK-Autopresse.eu

Aromatic recollections | Offbeat HK-Autopresse.eu

Aromatic recollections | Offbeat HK

2020-11-22 01:51:31

Hong Kong took its identify ‘aromatic harbor’ from the incense timber that develop right here. The timber are actually nearly gone due to human predators. Dara Wang studies on the efforts to save lots of the timber that stay.

Ho Pui-han inspects a wild incense tree in a deep mountain in 2015. The resinous wooden can be utilized in incense, fragrance and carvings. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

In a summer season afternoon of 2015, Ho Pui-han snapped an image of two poachers as they had been simply getting right into a automotive and able to go away an Aquilaria sinensis forest. Left with no time to place away her cellphone, she noticed the automobile, 200 meters away, hurtling towards her.  

“My complete physique was trembling,” she recalled. 

Fortunately, a mini-bus driving forward of the automotive stopped beside her. Ho jumped onto it, making a slim escape. 

I’ve spent much more time with timber than with individuals in recent times. Incense timber are my shut associates

Ho Pui-han, an environmental fanatic who engages herself in defending wild incense timber

The Aquilaria sinensis is an evergreen medicinal tree utilized in making incense that grows within the lowlands of southern China and different subtropical areas. Its product, fragment wooden, is value as much as HK$60,000 (US$7,738) per gram. Like different valuable commodities worldwide, it attracts poachers.

Opulent potential income from the Aquilaria sinensis and poorly written legal guidelines have introduced poachers like a plague — poachers ready to take the lives of others to guard their ill-gotten features. In addition they pose a risk to the very existence of the endangered timber. Ho is undeterred. She carries on along with her efforts to guard the timber regardless that she could also be placing her life in danger.

Ho recalled encountering the 2 poachers one afternoon, whereas patrolling the incense tree forest round Hok Tau village, 10 kilometers from the boundary between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Two unusual individuals caught her consideration. “They took images of virtually each tree they handed and adopted tracks the place there have been no paths in any respect,” she mentioned.  

Ho Pui-han’s volunteer group conducts area analysis in collaboration with the police and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Division in 2016. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Ho adopted them to the car parking zone. When the 2 received right into a automotive, Ho used her cellphone and took a photograph. Then got here the possibly lethal encounter.

On the subsequent day, Ho handed the picture to the police. The police may do little. On the time, the police had listed incense tree poaching as a standard incident of unlawful tree felling. Greater than a dozen of incense timber had been misplaced within the subsequent week. Now, there are solely two left within the neighborhood.

The timber are actually endangered. In Hong Kong, the numbers of Aquilaria sinensis are all the way down to inside 1,000, in response to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Division. To Ho, the losses can’t be quantified. They’re valuable and irreplaceable.

The heady perfume of agarwood gave Hong Kong its identify, which implies aromatic harbor in Chinese language. Ho believes Hong Kong residents can discover their cultural roots in these timber.

In accordance with Lo Hsiang-lin, a famend researcher in Hakka tradition, as early because the Music Dynasty (960-1279), incense timber had been extensively planted at Sha Lo Wan and on Hong Kong’s Lantau island. Farmers transported the tree merchandise from inland to Shek Pai Wan, the place they had been exported to Southeast Asia and additional to Arabia. Shek Pai Wan was often known as the “port of Hong Kong” ­— the port used for transporting incense in Cantonese, and “Hong Kong” later turned the identify of your complete metropolis.

Ho Pui-han (proper) and then-acting Kwun Tong district commander Alice Lee Nga-lai examine an incense tree in 2016. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Savior of the incense tree

The harmful encounter didn’t deter Ho. She pressed on along with her marketing campaign and demanded that the federal government do extra to guard the timber.

By late 2015, Ho was listed because the principal complainant on the Legislative Council, as she urged authorities departments with environmental mandates and the police to boost monitoring and safety of the incense tree. She submitted her knowledge and supplies in regards to the habitats, their places and poaching scenes to the legislature and requested for clearly stipulated duties amongst governmental departments.

Responding to Ho and the request of lawmakers, the federal government stipulated in mid-2016 that the police would conduct legal investigations into all suspected circumstances on incense timber. Offenders concerned within the unlawful felling of the timber can be prosecuted primarily beneath the Theft Ordinance, which carries a most penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.

The federal government additionally labored with Ho, implementing the trial use of metallic tree guards, that are set to offer a safe barrier in opposition to felling or vandalism. By February, greater than 140 incense timber in Hong Kong had been supplied the barrier safety.

The barrier thought was raised by Ho in mid-2016. She discovered sponsors, who assisted within the manufacturing of iron bars, numbering 200 to 300 bars for every tree. They value round HK$10,000 per tree. She created a group of volunteers to hold the bars to the deep mountains. With none skilled assist, it took greater than eight hours for Ho and her volunteers to put in the boundaries for every tree. Ho put in boundaries for eight timber. Your entire mission took her eight months.

Within the June response, one other important improvement got here when police added guarding of the incense timber as one in all their duties. This can be due partly to Ho’s persistence.

Cops in Tseung Kwan O are previous associates of Ho. Each time Ho reported an unlawful felling, she stayed on the scene till the police got here. 

In 2015, a village in Tseung Kwan O misplaced a dozen incense timber. As ordinary, Ho and one other volunteer went to the scene and known as the police. They waited till darkish however no police officer confirmed up. The volunteer advised Ho she was going house for supper after which left. Ho, stayed, alone, within the deep mountain forest until late at evening, till the police arrived. 

A member of Ho Pui-han’s voluntary group erects iron boundaries for an incense tree in 2016. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Ho’s efforts drew the eye of then-acting Kwun Tong district commander Alice Lee Nga-lai (Tseung Kwan O was beneath the Kwun Tong District police division). She invited Ho to carry lectures, introducing her information of the incense timber and their particular values.

Lee discovered by way of Ho’s steerage that each one species of Aquilaria produce a darkish fragrant resin. The resin protects a wounded tree from fungal an infection. Sections of tree trunks or branches that comprise patches of aromatic, resinous wooden enter into the commerce beneath the identify “agarwood”. Additionally, the resin amassed from the wooden is used as an alternative to a invaluable Chinese language medication known as “Chen Xiang”, which as soon as derived primarily from the species Aquilaria malaccensis and imported from the Asian tropics.

Deep gashes had been usually discovered on the base of timber by poachers, Ho talked about, as a take a look at to see if the tree is value felling. “They may come again in a month to test if resin seems. If it does, they’ll simply chop the tree down and carry it throughout the border,” she mentioned.

Ho’s answer was to take away the resin showing on the floor and apply a wound dressing onto the brand new gash to forestall the tree from producing resin. “It is sort of a race,” she mentioned. “Poachers don’t need the tree to die instantly in any other case there can be no resin so each the poachers and I pray to be the primary to search out resin and take it away.”

But Ho’s efforts aren’t at all times profitable. Some poachers take away your complete tree root, leaving Ho with no likelihood. Roots are used to make root carvings, which could possibly be offered for tons of of hundreds of {dollars}. In the case of defending timber, boundaries work finest.

The results are apparent. Enhanced safety on the governmental degree has led to a pointy drop within the whole weight of timber felled. 

From 2011 to 2019, practically 1,000 kilograms of wooden had been identified to have been poached, in response to police statistics.

The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Division detected eight circumstances of agarwood smuggling from the town to the Chinese language mainland between 2011 and 2015. A complete of 800 kilograms of agarwood had been seized. From 2015 to 2019, solely 22 kilograms of agarwood had been intercepted by customs officers. 

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Division implements the trial use of metallic tree guards in 2017. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Dearest pal

Ho mentioned she by no means anticipated the incense tree to be such a ardour for her.

She began her profession in environmental safety after a critical sickness. She had labored as a Chinese language trainer at a center college after graduating from the Chinese language College of Hong Kong, and traveled to Nepal on the age of 29. When she returned to Hong Kong, she had misplaced her urge for food,  and her weight fell to solely 70 kilos (31.75 kilograms) after a number of months. “Physique checks confirmed that all the things was okay, however I felt I used to be nearly useless.”

Ho give up her educating job and went to Lantau island, hoping the clear air there may heal her. Throughout her trip in 1999, she, together with a number of different environmental fanatics, shaped the Affiliation of Tai O Setting and Improvement, specializing in environmental considerations and protesting civil improvement.

Someday in 2011, two monks approached her. They advised Ho the pillaging of the incense timber by poachers. Out of curiosity, Ho began to analysis the timber. 

Ho discovered that the incense tree is likely one of the high elements used within the Chinese language incense tradition. The perfume can’t be artificially copied. The tree is a local species significantly ample in mature woodlands subsequent to the agricultural villages in Hong Kong.

Historic villagers at all times plant the tree close to cemeteries, within the perception that the tree can defend the household and guarantee fortunes are handed to the subsequent generations. 

Along with her rising information of how deeply the tree is tied to Chinese language custom, Ho’s bond with the Aquilaria grew even stronger.

At Ho’s home, there are lots of photos of incense timber being felled. They had been printed on A3 dimension picture papers and sealed plastic. It takes Ho some time to consider the 12 months she went to the college, whereas she solely wants a second to recall the place and when she discovered every of the felled timber. “I’ve spent much more time with timber than with individuals in recent times. Incense timber are my shut associates.”

The hardiest time for her was not when being hit practically by the automotive, however when visiting a root carving museum within the metropolis of Dongguan in Guangdong province. 

A number of of carvings made out of the roots of incense timber are exhibited there. The sense of cruelty concerned in these creations suffocates Ho. “To me, it was a horrible place with the ‘useless our bodies of my dearest associates’,” mentioned Ho, who took a deep breath. “However I’ve to be taught in regards to the market. That’s my job.”

Poaching shouldn’t be as rampant because it was, however Ho nonetheless can’t settle her nerves. Ho and the federal government put in thermal imaging cameras subsequent to incense timber. As soon as any creature passes by, the digicam information it and sends the picture to units, together with Ho’s cellular. Ho opened the album of these images. It is stuffed with thermal pictures of creatures, equivalent to birds or bugs, hastening previous the digicam. All through your complete album, there’s not a single image of a human.

Ho additionally retains checking the livestream of the encompassing setting in case somebody covers the digicam. A number of instances, there was sign loss, which she reported to the police. All cases had been discovered to be malfunctions.

The truth that the variety of poaching has been enormously lowered doesn’t draw a near Ho’s job. As the vast majority of individuals haven’t realized the deep bond between the tree and native tradition, Ho is shifting her focus to elevating public consciousness.

“Someday, if the final wild incense tree on the earth dies, individuals in Hong Kong will lose not solely a species but in addition a pure consultant of their tradition,” she mentioned.

Ho mentioned she wouldn’t miss an opportunity to publicize tales in regards to the timber, as she believes it’s higher to “bombard” individuals with common information on the timber than to see headlines in regards to the extinction shock individuals who’ll discover it too late to remorse.

Contact the author at dara@chinadailyhk.com

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