Officials from the Andhra Pradesh Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force on Thursday seized over 100 red sanders logs weighing close to two tonnes, worth Rs 1 crore in the international market.
The officials managed to seize a lorry carrying the logs after an intense chase in the night on the Puttur-Chennai Airport road, after they received a tip-off that red sanders was being transported to Chennai in Tamil Nadu from Narayanavanam.
It was at around 2 am, that the lorry entered the highway, and on spotting the officials, the smugglers gave them a run for 20 km. The officials caught up with the lorry at Nagari as they blocked the road ahead, the police said.
“The 118 logs in ‘pole size’ were cut from the forests of the hills between Vadamalapeta and Puttur. After cutting the trees, the logs might have reached Narayanavanam, with woodcutters carrying them downhill from the northern flanks,” Inspector-General of Police (Task Force) M. Kantha Rao told reporters.
This comes a day after Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police (DGP) RP Thakur said that it would take strict action against those involved in the smuggling of the precious wood.
Asking all departments of the government to work together, the DGP also advocated for using technology, including satellite imagery and drones, besides setting up check posts.
Red sanders are a rare kind of sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) that grows only in the Palakonda and Seshachalam hills, with some trees found in isolated areas of Kurnool, Prakasam, Anantapur and Nellore districts in Andhra Pradesh.
The precious wood has a huge demand abroad, especially in China, Myanmar, Japan and other countries of East Asia, as it is used in traditional medicines and woodcraft.
The Andhra government often seizes several tonnes of logs every year during combing operations by special forces in the forests, which it auctions later after getting permission from the central government.
A tonne of red sanders fetches Rs 20 lakh to Rs 25 lakh in the international market. However, depending on the grade of the wood, it can even fetch much more.