By V. Chandrasekaran
GURUN: The demand for tongkat ali, the plant reputed to have aphrodisiac properties, is causing rampant encroachments into forest reserves.The raids have become so frequent that the Forestry Department is worried that the plant species may become extinct if immediate steps are not taken to stop the wanton uprooting.
The department’s director-general Datuk Zul Mukhshar Md Shaari said there was a big market for the plant extract, as evidenced by the number of factories set up by public listed companies to process tongkat ali into capsules for export.
He said that five years ago, only bomohs, herbal medicine practicioners and officers from the forestry department recognized the efficacy of tongkat ali. "But since then, it has become a big industry," he said.
Now you can find tongkat ali the tarik being sold in every nook and corner," he said after opening the Jeniang/Sik Forest Ranger office in Jeniang near here yesterday.
Zul Mukshar said the companies or individuals did not require any licence or permit to extract the plant from forest reserves.
If this continues, we fear the plant might become extinct, he said.
He said directives had been given to the respective forestry departments to deploy a ranger to take charge of two areas in the forest reserves where tongkat ali was extensively found.
By doing this, we may at least help preserve some areas, he added.
Zul Mukhshar said although it was difficult to overcome the problem of encroachment, his department was finding ways if permits or licenses could be issued to those who processed tongkat ali for commercial purposes.
Various aspects have to be considered before guidelines and procedures are worked out to issue licenses or permits, he said. He said his department would encourage companies processing the plant to grow the species themselves instead of getting their supply from forest reserves.