Cross-border itinerant poaching of agarwood in Hong Kong’s peri-urban forests

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10 Citations (Scopus)


In Asia, the rising demands for agarwood concurrent with reduced supply due to over-exploitation, habitat loss and tightened control on harvest have significantly raise its price. Aquilaria sinensis (Incense Tree or Chenxiang), native to south China, yields commercially highly-valuable agarwood. In mainland China, it has been excessively plundered over many decades, and has been designated an endangered species at the national level to reinforce legal protection. Successful nature conservation and absence of tapping by local residents in Hong Kong have maintained a healthy tree stock, offering the last haven in China for the remnant trees. This spatial disparity in the abundance and protection status of the two tree subpopulations has driven cross-border itinerant poachers to harvest the local trees illegally. The porous border between Hong Kong and mainland China under the one-country two-systems political regime and the huge influx of visitors have facilitated the cross-border crime. In the frenetic search for the prized agarwood usually hidden in the core of trunks and large branches, many old trees have been gravely damaged or felled. The excessive and destructive wildlife crime could not be contained by local law enforcement and CITES international trade regulation. It has not been designated an endangered or protected species despite recent rise in theft. The preferential loss of large meritorious trees signifies erosion of superior seed sources and genetic quality. Proceeding at an alarming rate with limited arrests and prosecutions, the continued depletion could render the species endangered. From an analysis of underlying factors and processes, a package of 26 statutory, administrative and scientific actions is proposed to curb the illicit theft and smuggling. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-431
JournalUrban Forestry and Urban Greening
Issue number2
Early online date17 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Jim, C. Y. (2015). Cross-border itinerant poaching of agarwood in Hong Kong’s peri-urban forests. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 14(2), 420-431. doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2015.04.007


  • Agarwood
  • Aquilaria sinensis
  • Cross-border ecotheft
  • Incense tree
  • Itinerant poaching
  • Peri-urban forest


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