The Grinches who steal Christmas trees are hitting forests again

2014-12-20 00:00

PETTY criminals are out to steal the Christmas cheer, it seems with the theft of pine trees, used as Christmas trees, on the rise in Howick.

Pine trees make for an easy steal. A simple bow saw is all that is needed to cut one down.

A forestry manager, who is not allowed to speak to the media, said people have been stealing trees from plantations for many years, with a spike noticed over the festive season.

“It has been a problem for many years now. People go into plantations and cut down trees that are between one and 1,5 metres tall. Sometimes other larger trees are damaged when branches are broken off,” he said.

The manager said people had not been caught and it could not be entirely contained as forests were too large to secure.

“We do have security patrolling throughout the day and at night, but people always find a way,” he said.

The going rate for Christmas pine trees are between R200 and R750.

Victoria Mbanjwa, who works at Jesmond Dene Nursery and Garden Centre in Pietermaritzburg, said they readied the trees at their plantation for this time of the year.

“We sell cryptomeria ­japonicaare [fir tree] from R200 and they can reach a height of two to two-and-a-half metres,” she said.

Mbanjwa said despite the low cost of Christmas trees, people were still attempting to steal their trees. “Earlier this week, men tried to steal trees from us during the evening, but they were caught,” she said.

Owner of the nursery Eric Burgees said the issue of tree theft had been going on for as long as he could remember.

“People decide that it would be easier to just cut down trees and don’t understand they belong to farms or forestries,” he said. He said the theft was a quick operation that takes a matter of minutes.

Regional communication manager Zelda Schwalbach for Sappi SA said they too had a big problem with timber theft at plantations all over the country.

• rumana.akoob@witness.co.za

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