The caution follows the recent arrest of one Alphonse Ntakirutimana, 32, after he was found felling trees in Nyungwe Forest and National Park.
Ntakirutimana had already cut 19 trees at the time he was located and arrested in the forest, Police said.
Chief Inspector of Police (CIP) Sylvestre Twajamahoro, the Police spokesperson for the Southern region said that Ntakirutimana is one of the people, who have been arrested in Nyungwe Forest and National Park cutting trees for charcoal burning, timber, and construction.
"Ntakirutimana was reported by ’Imboni za Nyungwe’ (local volunteers protecting Nyungwe) of Uwumusebeya Cell in Ruheru Sector after they saw him entering the forest," CIP Twajamahoro said.
"Police and park rangers trailed and arrested him red-handed cutting trees. He had already cut 19 trees."
According to information provided by Imboni za Nyungwe, Ntakirutimana has been engaged in these unlawful acts of environmental degradation for a while selling the trees to people who are building houses.
"Forests are protected for environmental reasons and anyone that encroaches on them will be arrested to face justice," CIP Twajamahoro warned.
Environmental experts say that the world’s forests, swamps, plains, lakes, and other habitats continue to disappear due to human activities including charcoal burning, agriculture, housing, roads, timber, and more.
“Cutting of trees without authorization in Rwanda is illegal and punishable by law. It is considered as an act of environmental degradation, which has a negative impact on nature and humans in particular,” the spokesperson emphasized.
Article 44 of the law on environment, prohibits cutting trees in forests or protected areas like national parks or burning them.
Article 59 of the same legal instrument states that any person who causes death destroys protected plants, harvests or damages them, commits an offence.”
Upon conviction, the offender is liable to an imprisonment term of not less than three years and not more than five years and a fine of between Rwf1 million and Rwf3 million.
CIP Twajamahoro thanked Imboni za Nyungwe for their volunteerism to protect the forest and urged all families in the area to report those who encroach on the gazzetted natural forest.