Ring-barking scourge returns to Claremont

JOHN HARVEY

The ring-barking that affected Claremont’s fever trees two years ago has returned.

Tatler reader Buddy Mockford pointed out the trees at the intersection of Bowwood and Main roads have again been stripped of bark, which is prized by muti traders.

The City previously addressed the problem in 2014 by applying sealant to the trees in the hope that it would enable them to recover.

In addition, bark that had been painted with sealant would have no value to those trading in traditional medicines.

However, photographs submitted by Mr Mockford show extensive bark stripping to a number of trees.

“Humans seem hell-bent on destroying everything on this planet,” he said.

Ward councillor Ian Iversen said the problem of bark stripping was extensive and “very destructive”.

“The muti men use underage kids to strip the trees of bark as it is very unlikely, even if they are caught, that any legal action will be taken against them. The City is trying to work with muti men pointing out which trees can actually help people and guide them to certain areas. However, it is a bit of an uphill battle,” he said.

Dr Leif Petersen, who runs the Sustainable Livelihood Foundation, concurred that the bark would most likely be used for traditional medicine.

“There is a thriving demand for traditional medicine in the city, with 64% of township households reporting use of traditional medicine in the previous 12 months. More than 56 local (Cape Town) species are used in this trade, although the great majority of material is wild-harvested by nyangas (traditional healers) and collectors outside the Western Cape,” Dr Petersen said.

“Fever trees are not indigenous to the Cape, but are naturally found in KwaZulu-Natal. The bark is used for treating eye complaints and fevers. If the bark is stripped from the entire circumference of the tree, it will die. If not, it may live although the health of the tree will be compromised.”