Kerala to initiate microchipping Marayur sandalwood trees to prevent thefts
Kerala might initiate microchipping the sandal trees in the natural sandal wood forests at Marayur- the only one of its type in the State. The Forest Minister KB Ganesh Kumar informed the state assembly of the innovative plans that are being formulated to insert microchips in sandalwood trees at Marayur, to prevent wide spread plunder of these priceless trees.
Marayur is 42 km north of Munnar along the Udumalppetta route. Spreading over an area of 93 sq. km, the Marayur reserve forest is home to over 60,000 naturally grown sandalwood trees. Rampant smuggling of sandalwood has always been a cause of serious concern for the Government and the forest department. It is alarming to note that in just one year nearly 2,000 trees have been allegedly plundered. The thieves use state of the art mechanical saws, which can fell a tree in no time without being noticed, which has turned out to be the biggest challenge for the forest department officials in curbing the menace.
Sandalwood or Santalum album is valued for its fragrant heartwood, which is used for making perfumes, agarbathis, ayurvedic medicines and beauty products. Sandalwood oil, popularly known as ‘liquid gold’, is extracted from the roots and wood of sandalwood. Sandalwood is highly priced in both the National and International market.
Though microchipping wild animals have been used successfully in tracking their movements, it is too early to predict the feasibility of the idea of inserting chips in sandalwood trees. According to RRR Varma, principal chief conservator of forests, the basic idea is to use microchips to track the movement of the trees. In the event of any unusual movement of the trees, an alert will be sent to the control station, which will enable the forest guards to reach the spot immediately.