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Chinese villagers cut down live endangered tree to make coffin

Chinese villagers cut down live endangered tree to make coffin
Villagers felled an endangered magnolia to use the wood. Photo: Handout via South China Morning Post

Chinese villagers cut down live endangered tree to make coffin

HONG KONG — A magnolia tree listed as an endangered species has been cut down near a village in southern China to be made into a coffin.

The felled parakmeria yunnanensis magnolia tree — a species protected by the Chinese government since 1991 — was found outside the town of Lianhuatanxiang in Yunnan province, according to the news site YunnanExpress. The trees are native to evergreen forests in southern China and Southeast Asia and feature highly fragrant blooms.

Local officials investigated after a local forest protection group posted photos on social networking site Weibo last Thursday (April 13) of a destroyed tree near the town, saying it had been made into a coffin. The group said the trunk of the felled tree measured 1.4m in diameter.

Forest investigators from the local public security bureau found the destroyed tree near the village, along with some partly processed wood.

Five suspects — three surnamed Li and two surnamed Pan — have been identified and the police investigation is continuing.

The forest protection group that first discovered the destroyed magnolia said its volunteers found around 10 species of endangered plants and many old trees near the Yunnan town.

“But there currently are no effective protection measures, and villagers are not very aware of plant preservation,” the group wrote on Weibo. “We hope that locals will become more aware, and can take on the task of protecting these endangered plants and old trees!”

Some netizens commended the group’s work, with one Weibo user writing: “Good effort. We will continue to watch how this situation progresses.”

China is home to a rich and diverse array of plant species, but around 15 to 20 per cent of its plant varieties are endangered, according to the China Internet Information Centre state-authorised web portal. SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST