An alarming number of indigenous trees are being stripped of their bark illegally, posing a serious threat to the various species and Cape Town’s biodiversity.

Mayco Member for Community Service and Health, Zahid Badroodien, is encouraging Capetonians to report any sightings of illegal tree bark stripping.

“The City cannot condone the damage done to trees through the illegal harvesting of bark for medicinal or cultural purposes. We have a responsibility to protect our fauna and flora and to this end, the City’s Recreation and Parks Department will work tirelessly to avoid the destruction of trees. However, we need communities to assist us by spreading the word to heighten awareness and to report any bark stripping incidents that they come across.”

Bark stripping from the entire circumference of the tree can cause it to die slowly as it interferes with its nutritional transport systems. When only partial areas of the trees are stripped, it causes serious damage as it inhibits the growth pattern and weakens the tree, making it more susceptible to drought and disease.

A damaged fever tree in Cape Town.

The trees being targeted are mainly camphor trees (also known as Cinnamomum camphora) and fever trees (Vachellia xanthophloea). Reports indicate that the trees’ bark and roots are being used for various medicinal and cultural reasons. Fever trees are known for their smooth, slightly flaking, greenish-yellow bark. The trees play an important role in the ecosystem as they are home to various indigenous bird species.

In an effort to curb illegal bark stripping, the City’s Recreation and Parks Department has consulted with fruit farming agriculturists, who recommend painting the barks of trees that may be targeted with PVA paint.

“This should render the bark unattractive for harvesting. The mixture does not pose any risk to the tree and it is not toxic to humans. The paint colour will be light brown. Warning signs which state that bark stripping is prohibited will also be erected in the affected areas,” says a City of Cape Town statement.

Badroodien is appealing to the public to work together to prevent damage to our beautiful trees.

“Bark stripping is strictly prohibited and we can only win this battle with the help of members of the public. Apart from the ecological benefits of trees, they also create a pleasing environment in our parks and green public open spaces. They increase our quality of life by creating a green interface between the natural and built environment.”

Members of the public can report sightings of stripped trees or bark stripping activities to the City’s Law Enforcement Department by contacting 021 480 7700 or emailing [email protected].

Fever trees in Cape Town are being targeted by illegal strip barking.

Picture: City of Cape Town

Article written by

Ishani Chetty

Ishani is a vegetarian who is passionate about animals, social issues, the environment and current affairs.