Himalaya red-pine trees killed because "they can treat cancer"

VietNamNet Bridge – Red pine (taxus wallichiana zucc) which only grows in Lam Dong province is one of the rare species with the highest 10 – DB III content, an active element that can turn into taxol used in making up the medicine for cancer treatment.

About 100 years ago, taxus wallichiana zucc was discovered in Da Lat City of Lam Dong province. Eighteen years ago, American scientists could prepare the medicine for cancer treatment from red pine.

In Vietnam, red pine trees have also been hunted by poachers. However, the trees have been used only for making fine arts products and caskets.

The precious plant species

In 1994, the information that the US successfully prepared a medicine that can treat cancer stirred up the community of Vietnamese scientists, who recalled a discovery of foreign scientist H. Lecomte, who made it public in the book about Indochina’s flora. The scientist stated that he discovered a population of red pine with over 10 individuals in the primitive forest of Cam Ly in Da Lat City.

Also in 1994, Dr Le Thi Xuan from the Biotechnology Institute, returned to Vietnam after a training course in the US with samples of red pine leaves and the information about the precious herb. Then Xuan, together with the scientists working in Da Lat, went to Cam Ly.

“We were numbed when discovering that the forest area mentioned in H. Lecomte’s book had been devastated to give land to farmers to grow coffee,” Dr Duong Tan Nhut, Deputy Head of the Tay Nguyen Biology Institute, recalled the trip.

Later, in mid June 1994, the scientists discovered a population of 25 trees with the length of 30-40 meters on a cliff mountain side on the height of 1500 meters. The population lived on an area of 1-1.5 square kilometers in the eastern part of the Lam Vien plateau.

After Xuan sent samples to the US to Prof M. Shenluck, the world’s leading expert in red pine, she received a replied that the samples were exactly from the trees used to make the medicine.

The red pine in Lam Dong province is an endemic species of Vietnam which has the concentration of 10 – DB III higher by ten times than the red pine in the US and hundreds times higher than Mexican trees.

Red pine trees being hunted

Over the last 15 years, universities, science institutes and forestry agencies have sent their staff to the deep forests to look for red pines. However, only some populations of red pines have been found, including the ones with just several trees, or tens of trees. The biggest population comprises of over 100 trees.

Vo Danh Tuyen, Deputy Head of the Lam Dong provincial Forest Ranger Unit, said that the red pine populations have narrow disposition areas. They have been found only in Lam Dong province, while they have been growing very slowly. Therefore, they may get extinct and have been listed in the Vietnam’s Red Book as a species that needs special protection.

However, the red pine still has been in the danger, as poachers have been hunting for the valuable trees. People believe that the dead people, if lying in red pine made caskets, would be able help and support their relatives to prosper in business.

Nearly 10 red pine trees which were hundreds of years old in the Voi mountain area in Duc Trong district were chopped down in 2008. The scientists got angry when hearing that the number of the precious trees has been decreasing gradually, from over 100 trees to 70, 60 and 40 now.

Tien Phong

Vietnam, flora, poachers, environment, policy, encouragement