After being crushed down by heavy snow, some rare yew trees in Shaoguan City of south China's Guangdong Province were "beheaded" and "skinned" by locals seeking to make a profit, according to the Yew Tree Forest Park management there.
In January, heavy snow hit Zhangjiacun village of Shaoguan where more than 100,000 yew trees grow, breaking many yew trees. More than 100 of these rare trees are at least 1,000 years old.
Fallen branches of the trees even blocked the only path for villagers to climb the mountain.
Some people, driven by profit-making, even chopped the tree trunks down or skinned them so as to extract taxol, an expensive ingredient in a synthetic anti-cancer drug.
"Yew trees grow very slowly, with one centimeter in 10 years. It's not easy for those trees to grow so high," said one keeper with the park, tears in her eyes.
The snow did not damage the trees substantially and they would have made full recovery with proper treatment, she added.
"However, being skinned or lopped from the root, the trees surely can not live any longer."
Local police have arrested several people involved and investigation is still underway, said an official with the park.
Local authorities warned villagers not to fell the rare yew trees or they would face severe punishment.
The endangered tree species are on the state top protection list in China.
(Xinhua News Agency March 2, 2008)