Cape nature lovers bemoan bark stripping at Newlands Forest
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Cape Town - Nature lovers and Friends of Table Mountain have complained about the alarming number of trees being stripped of their bark illegally at Newlands Forest, posing a serious threat to various species and Cape Town’s biodiversity.
Newlands Forest Conservation Group co-founding member Willie Boshoff, said as he ambled up to the Newlands ravine picnic site to continue clearing out the Queensland poplar infestation in that area on Wednesday, he walked in on another tree slaughter - six large trees completely ring-barked, one being an exceptionally beautiful assegai.
Boshoff said the last 10 years have seen the area around the picnic site go from lush, verdant tree canopy to a veritable war zone.
"The trees that have been stripped in the last five years are starting to fall over with every storm, and another five years from now there won't be any large Cape beech or assegais left in the area," he said.
Community safety group, Parkscape chairperson, Nicky Schmidt, said the unsustainable and destructive bark stripping, seen in Newlands Forest and other areas, was a tragic environmental blight.
Schmidt said the situation urgently required visible policing and intervention by conservation authorities.
"Note that I don't say better or more visible policing because the obvious lack of any policing ensures that this problem perpetuates," said Schmidt.
She said the situation, like so many other concerns in the park, also needs concerted public education and awareness campaigns.
"We see issues of vandalism and destruction of the natural environment across the park, from fire- lighting, graffiti, bark stripping, noise pollution and litter. All of them impact our precious park and all of them degrade it," said Schmidt.
Community Service and Health Mayco member, Zahid Badroodien directed queries to the SA National Parks (SANParks), saying Newlands Forest was managed by them and that was primarily where concerns about bark stripping have been raised.
Badroodien said the City has occasionally dealt with bark stripping in the urban environment, however the department was not aware of any recent incidents.
Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) spokesperson Babalwa Dlangamandla, confirmed that there has been a number of bark-stripping incidents at Newlands Forest in the section of TMNP.
Dlangamandla said their rangers have been conducting daily patrols in and around the forest and early this year they have arrested three suspects who were in possession of 59kg of bark.
"We have conducted several awareness campaigns to the park visitors at Newlands Forest, communities adjacent to the park, and to our social media platforms highlighting the devastating effects of bark stripping," said Dlangamandla.
She said all damaged trees were sealed when rangers did their enforcement and monitoring in the area, and that there have been camera traps set up to gather intel in prevention of the environmental crime.
"We have noted illegal harvesting of flora, socio-economic challenges where illegal structures are built on SANParks land and an increase in poaching," she said.