Some 150 Yellowwood trees were “accidentally” cut down by a contractor to the Working for Water program.
On August 4th and 5th a generic news article was published by several major south African newspapers. It provided some basic details about a contractor working for the Working for Water program (a government initiative to combat the negative effects of alien invasive plants in South Africa - see http://www.dwaf.gov.za/wfw/), who “accidentally” cut down and poisoned 150 indigenous Yellowwood trees in March this year, having mistaken them to be the highly invasive alien, Black Wattle. The trees were between 50-100 years old. A sad day indeed, and a significant loss of trees for an arid country like South Africa.
The matter was investigated and reported by KZN Wildlife employee Allan Howells at the time. The contract has since been ended, following a period of 6 years in which work had been done for the program. Details are not exact, but the trees seem to have been near the Drakensberg Sun hotel in the Central Berg. Working for Water will only comment at a later stage.
Read the IOL news report here.
The question that many would shout aloud is: how on earth did they mistake Yellowwood trees for Black Wattle?! Even for someone like me, with an entry-level knowledge of Drakensberg flora, there are some immediate and obvious differences between the two. Anyone who is the least bit aware of the serious Wattle problem in South Africa can easily identify one when they see it, never mind someone who has been removing alien invasives for 6 years!
Is this is a case of “a major breakdown in implementation which could very well be due to a problem that has developed in South Africa as it strives to create opportunities for all. Emerging contractors are often directed into jobs for which they don’t have the necessary skills”, as suggested by Dave Harcourt in his article, 150 Indigenous Yellowwood Trees Destroyed as Invasive Alien Species - Lessons For South Africa? Might very well be the case. Let’s hope that it is, since the situation will be far more troubling if it’s due to other reasons.
Which other reasons? Well, it seems very suspect to me that a serious mistake like this could be made by someone that has been working in the field for 6 years. And what about the wood? What was done with it? Did it earn money somewhere for the expensive wood that it is? And what about the ground that was cleared – is this significant in any way? Lets hope the general public will be informed when Working for Water issues a statement about the incident.