Romanian authorities say a forest ranger has been fatally shot “in a Mafia style” slaying, most likely by lumber thieves in what is the second death of a ranger in recent weeks. The incident comes amid an rise in attacks on rangers and an increase in illegal logging in the country’s forested areas.
The general manager of state forest management company Romsilva, George Mihailescu, said the ranger, identified as Liviu Pop was killed in Strambu Baiut forest district in far northwest Romania.
“The violence was extreme, so I can’t describe it,” Mihailescu wrote on Facebook. “The risks forest workers are facing are closely linked to the violence in Romanian society,” he added.
Mihai Lesan, a forestry spokesman said he called the district office to say that a theft was underway and headed to the area. Emergency officials also went to the area. The ranger failed to answer his phone and his body was found shortly afterwards. According to reports, he had been badly beaten and then shot.
The Maramures Police Department confirmed the body of a 30-year old man was found in a forest Wednesday evening. Prosecutors and police officers are investigating but nobody has been detained in connection with the slaying.
It is the second slaying of a park ranger in the last month. A ranger near Pascani in northeast Romania was also killed by three lumber thieves in September, Romsilva said.
It said there had been 16 cases of assault on Romsilva employees since the beginning of the year.
Romania has about 6,100 park rangers of which half carry arms. The rest have pistols with rubber bullets “which don’t even scare dogs” said Silviu Geana, who heads the Silva forestry trade union.
Romania is home to the biggest share of remaining virgin forests in Europe. But they are vanishing rapidly due to logging, some of it illegal.
Last year, environment group Greenpeace Romania reported a spike in cases of illegal logging, with a total of 12,487 cases of illegal logging identified nationwide in 2017, an average of into 34 cases per day, a third more than the previous year.
Mures county has the highest number of illegal logging cases registered in 2017.
However, police say that there is also an increase in convictions of illegal loggers, particularly in forested areas in the north and northwest and the eastern county of Bacau.
The Greenpeace report said total damages amounted to 41.5 million lei (some 8.7 million euros) in 2017, slightly up from the previous year.