Residents of Tshidzini village, near Thohoyandou in Limpopo, are concerned over the illegal de-bushing and smuggling of the Breonadia salicina trees.
The protected trees are believed to be a major raw material for quality furnisher and wooden vehicle dashboards.
According to ecologists, the Breonadia salicina trees preserve water and play host to wildlife species such as birds and snakes.
Locally known as Mutulume – the Breonadia salicina – is one of the strongest and oldest known indigenous trees. It is mainly found in wet and tropical regions like the Vhembe district in Limpopo. It grows along river banks and can live up to thousands of years.
Ecologists say the Breonadia salicina preserves water and provides refuge to wildlife. Tshidzini community representative Robert Magara says they are working with relevant authorities to protect the tree.
“We are very much concerned about this happening. this is a very important tree because we get water from it so it preserves water some people get medicine from it. it also helps us as a windbreaker during windy seasons we have to protect it.”
The Breonadia salicina has been protected under the National Forest Act of 1998. Ecologist Ndivhuho Khantshi says chopping and smuggling of the tree is an unlawful act warranting a minimum of a 3-year prison sentence.
“Mutulume is protected under the national forest act number 94 of 1998 under section 15 sub section one where it says none is allowed to cut the tree or purchase or sell it even sell any product that comes from it.”
The assistant director of Vhembe district environment and tourism Shavhani Neluvhola says they are concerned over the deforestation of the trees.
“As the department, we are very concerned because the tree is important in our lives and in our culture it is there to protect our fountains and boundaries of the rivers, destroying it is destroying our ecosystem.”
Some people who were nabbed poaching the trees were slapped with a spot fine of over R2000.