A vast wild forest of precious trees has been safely preserved since it was discovered in 2006 on the peak of a mountain in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak in Vietnam.
The forest is commonly called “the kingdom of pomu” by locals.
Pomu is the Vietnamese name for Fujian cypress trees with the scientific name Fokienia hodginsii, a plant producing precious wood.
It covers an area of at least 4,000 hectares and is located at an altitude of 1,700 meters on the peak of the Chu Yang Nia Mountain in the Chu Yang Sin National Park in Dak Lak.
Pomu is the species of plant that has its roots running both above and below soil. Its trunk is dark red and can reach a height of nearly 20 meters.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper journalists joined local rangers in walking for the eight hours it takes to reach the peak of Chu Yang Nia, perpetually covered with cloud, fog and pomu.
The cold atmosphere produced a snap in the air. It was dark under the thick foliage of trees despite it being 4:00 pm – not long before sunset.
A pomu tree with a diameter of 80cm and a height of 12m in the forest is not yet “a senior,” said ranger Chu Van Nguyen.
Then, he scraped a small piece of bark off the tree to mark it with red digits.
“The mark helps rangers count the number of trees in the forest and to keep track of their growth,” said Mai Ngoc Lam, a researcher from the technology and preservation department of the Chu Yang Sin National Park.
Walking for a distance, Lam pointed out a large tree and explained that it is one of the “seniors” of the forest. The tree has a diameter reaching 1.5m and a height of 15m.
Its roots are the size of a human wrist and reach out to the ground from three meters above. The roots cover a large area of soil.
“Pomu trees here are as numerous as sugar canes,” Lam said.
“On this mountain peak, it would take us a month to count the number of pomu trees.”
It is estimated that the total area of pomu trees scattered around the national park is roughly 4,000 hectares, 16 times more than the area of pomu trees in Tay Giang District, located in the central province of Quang Nam.
Before leaving for Chu Yang Sin, the Tuoi Tre journalists were required not to identify the forest’s location for fear of illegal deforestation.
Ranger Y Bieu Nie, 48, recalled discovering the pomu forest in 2006 when he got lost in the woods.
Since then, it has been a struggle to protect the trees with rangers taking turns to patrol the area regularly.
The biggest threat came in 2008, two years after discovery, when many people from Lak District of Dak Lak rushed to the areas to cut pomu trees.
“They were aggressive, holding large knives and challenging rangers to fights,” said Luong Huu Thanh, vice director of the national park.
“It took rangers and soldiers of a local army unit four months to crush the plot to cut pomu trees.”
Despite their efforts, dozens of big pomu trees were cut down during the time.
After that, the management board of the national park decided to assign locals to protect the pomu forest on a flat rate and the policy has proved effective.
Y Quyet, vice head of the Tul village near the pomu forest, said villagers of 25 households there agreed to protect 384 hectares for an annual wage of VND3 million ($133) each.
In addition, the village also funded the establishment of electricity grids and proper roads thanks to their contribution to guarding the forest.
The national park has since become a destination for travelers in Dak Lak.