Newlands Forest tree stripped of its bark. Photo: supplied.
Newlands Forest tree stripped of its bark. Photo: supplied.

Stripping of bark from rare trees in Newlands Forest a concern

By Shanice Naidoo Time of article published Nov 21, 2020

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Newlands Forest tree stripped of its bark. Photo: supplied.

Cape Town - Rare and endangered trees have been continually stripped of their bark since the late 90s for medicinal purpose, despite any proven medical efficacy.

The illegal practice has raised the concern of Friends of Table Mountain with spokesperson Andy Davis saying they are upset as this was killing off some old beautiful trees.

“We had two recent incidents where a large number of trees were stripped. We understand that it may be used for muti. Recently, about six trees had been stripped,” said Davis.

Willem Boshoff a Newlands Forest Preservation society member said bark stripping has been ongoing for a very long time since the late 90s.

“There has been a lot of incidents in Newlands Forest and we have seen over the last couple of years there seems to be a big wave of bark stripping,” said Boshoff.

He believes that the bark is being used for medicinal reasons however, the bark does not have any proven medical efficacy according to him.

“The bark is taken mostly from indigenous trees and some species that are very rare or endangered. The problem is two-fold due to the quantum upwards of 20 trees stripped of bark in a week. The thing that makes it particularly bad is the guys that strip the bark completely girdle the trunk. The reason is it kills the tree.

He added that the bark is where the trees nutrients and water is dispersed.

“The trees protect the mountains against erosion and the roots help stop invasive species and the tree canopy helps retain the moisture of the forest. A single night of bark stripping can kill about 10 to 20 mature trees. Some trees are up to 100 years old,” said Boshoff.

“Tree-stripping is illegal and bark strippers operate under a cover of darkness, my guess is that most of them know its illegal, I don’t know if most of them know if they are killing the trees. In the near term, we don’t see obvious solutions, what we are doing is trying to raise public awareness and hopefully, the authorities will devote more resources to address the problem. We believe they should be doing night-time patrols and put up signs to educate both the public and the bark stripper,” said Boshoff.

If a tree is not completely girdled it can be treated.

Stellenbosch University released a study stating that bark harvesting in indigenous forests impacts forest birds. The study said referring to the Eastern Cape that unregulated harvesting of timber, bark and poles from indigenous forest has a negative impact on bird diversity.

Weekend Argus

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