The last year, or perhaps two years, I have noticed a worrying trend in the poaching of Aquilaria crassna, known as Agarwood, Eaglewood, or Aloewood in Khao Yai national park. The poachers will cut a part out of the main tree trunk, then return after some time after a type of mould has affected the wood in the 'wound' of the tree. The wood with this mould has a strong fragrance and is worth a LOT of money.
The poaching of this wood has always been present in Khao Yai national park, at least since I live here, and seems by far the most common type of poaching in Khao Yai. And to be honest, the way it was done in the past, seemed not very harmful (the most worrying about it would probably be that the poachers might be in the forest for many days, and in the meanwhile perhaps killing animals to eat, but maybe they don't...). In the first years I started visiting Khao Yai, I could see that the poachers used a rather sustainable method. They carefully used a spoonlike tool to spoon the wood out of the tree trunk. Usually not going too deep, so the tree would still be strong enough to stand and survive. Of course over time they would spoon a little deeper and deeper, and maybe after quite a few years they would go beyond the breaking point, and then at the first storm the tree might break and die. But many of the trees that I found in the first years, are still standing today.
Surely this practice shouldn't be happening, and I do not agree with it, but it seemed a rather sustainable form of poaching which does not seem much more harmful than e.g. collecting mushrooms. The tree is still quite common in the park. I am not a tree expert, so I only recognize the species when it has the poaching marks, haha, but that is very common to see. Also up until several years ago, the poachers would not do it as visible as they are doing today. Usually not near the official tourist trails, but if it was near an official trail they would spoon the tree out on the back side which was not visible from the trail unless you walk around the tree.
But in the last year or two the method has changed. Someone told me this 'new' method is mostly used by Cambodians, while the older method was more used by the locals. But I have no proof of that. At least, it seems the poachers are no longer thinking in the long-term. Which would mean they might not return often, and therefore do not care that the tree will die shortly after they have harvested the wood.
Nowadays, they take a machete, and sometimes a saw and are much less careful, and almost always go past the breaking point of the tree. They make deep rough cuts that make the tree very unstable and likely to break.
Definitely not sustainable, I saw many trees that had already fallen, broken exactly on the spot where the poachers had made the deep cuts.
This means that almost every tree from which they harvest, will die within the same year. This will definitely cause a significant drop in this species.
I will add some pictures to show the difference in methods.
Also the pictures I took yesterday were along an official tourist trail, and the cuts were just on the trail-side of the tree, which seems to show the poachers have become fearless, and not worried about their practice being clearly visible. It worries me, because this could reflect the bold character of these poachers, and I would not like to run into fearless poachers in the jungle...
This shows the 'old', more sustainable way of Agarwood poaching. I should have more picture of this, but having trouble to find them.
This shows the new method. Very recent tracks. Rough deep cuts that will cause the tree to break and die in the first minor storm.
Another picture of the new poaching method that shows they sometimes even use a saw.
The new method, just facing the trail, showing the poachers are becoming more fearless.