Anyone living on the edge of the bush is used to the sound of chipping, sawing and sometimes mainlanders’ voices. The agarwood poachers are at work. One resident who has had more than his share of run-ins with these characters is Lee Bray. He lives with four dogs at Long Mei, a walk on a winding path beyond north Sha Kok Mei.
Lee, who says he is an event rigger — “anything to do with ropes, climbing, abseiling” — has had so many encounters with the poachers he collects their gear. “It’s simply because I spend so much time on bush trails with my dogs.” Agarwood is said to be one of the most valuable natural resources. “By
weight it’s worth more than gold,” Lee says. Global trade in the resin-embedded heartwood used in incense and perfume is estimated at US$6 – 8 billion.
Marine Police Commander John Cameron told SAI KUNG BUZZ agarwood is one of the high-value commodities most frequently smuggled to China. The trees are listed as endangered.
Lee had another run-in with the poachers recently. “The dogs began barking and I heard chipping.” After investigating and finding wood choppings, he called the police. An hour later they arrived. The poachers were spotted and the police shouted at them. One waved his baton. Lee climbed a trail up above the mainlanders and saw three men. “They took off. The police were not fit, the wrong guys for the job.” The men got away. Lee found a rucksack full of gear.
Lee’s closest encounter with the tree cutters came when on a bush trail below Ma On Shan he scared one man off only to look up and see another in the tree above him. “I let him down and spoke to him. He muttered something in Putonghua, almost apologetically, then ran off. I’m not going to start tackling people.” These gangs armed with machetes, saws, choppers and adzes are believed by the police to be responsible for many burglaries in Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay.