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Boredom to blame as endangered trees destroyed in Cape Town

The Newlands Forest Park in Table Mountain, Cape Town, is experiencing a new type of vandalism on endangered trees. The park notices a sudden spike in the number of destroyed trees from the beginning of February. Just earlier last year, they noticed an alarming amount of bark stripping, which, according to Lauren Clayton, the park’s spokesperson, is a problem that still persists.

The trees are destroyed by people who carve their names in the bark. To make matters worse, the trees that are being destroyed are under threat.

Trees are important foundations of urban sustainability because of the ecosystem services they provide to society and the environment. This should be common knowledge, yet people seem to be unaware of the damage caused by the vandalism to the trees.

When trees are susceptible to vandalism, it limits the flow of benefits they provide and also increases the cost of planting programs, according to a study conducted by Emma Richardson and Charlie Shackleton.

“The trees targeted by this vandalism are endangered trees,” Clayton said.

She explained that there has been no specific target species, contrary to what is seen when stripping the bark on Cape beech (Boekenhout) trees.

“This kind of vandalism on these endangered trees in the Newlands Forest is new to us,” says Clayton.

A name carved into the tree.

The park uses organic tree sealer to help the tree, but explained that it doesn’t mean the carving will go away. She explained that the park forbids carving, because it also destroys the beauty of the trees.

Initials carved into the tree.

According to the survey, residents blamed boredom, misbehavior, lack of appreciation and collecting wood as the main causes of tree vandalism.

This tree is deeply carved.

Suggestions from residents to prevent vandalism included planting in sensible areas, redesigning the protective structures, and promoting community participation and ownership in all aspects of street tree planting.

The park found this completely unacceptable. A fine of up to R1,000 can be handed out if someone intentionally disturbs a tree in the National Park.

“We appeal to the public to report this type of activity to the emergency number, 086 110 6417.”

You can also send an email to [email protected] with GPS location and photos.

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