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Vandals damage Japan's World Heritage tree

KAGOSHIMA, Japan, May 25 (UPI) -- Japanese officials are furious that vandals have stripped a piece of bark from an ancient cedar tree at a protected World Heritage site on Yakushima Island.

The tree in Kagoshima prefecture was registered as a World Heritage site in December 1993, and the local forestry office had roped it off to restrict access. Visitors can only inspect the tree from an observation deck 50 feet away.

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An official of the forestry office accompanied a visiting official to the tree on May 20 and noticed a 4-by-4-inch piece of bark had been stripped off the tree at a spot about three feet above the ground, the Mainichi Shimbun reported Wednesday.

"Many people want to protect the tree. I cannot believe someone has damaged it," the curator at the local Yakusugi Museum, Kaoru Matsumoto, said.

Local officials inspect the tree during holiday seasons when many tourists visit, but nobody keeps constant watch over the area.

The cedar tree, located in the central part of Yakushima Island, is 83 feet high and believed to be between 2,170 and 7,200 years old.

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