150 yellowwood trees poisoned
Johannesburg - About 150 yellowwood trees, an endangered species and the national tree of South Africa, were chopped down and poisoned in the Drakensberg because a government environmental group mistook them for black wattle trees, a report said on Tuesday.
The yellowwood trees that were destroyed were between 50 and 100 years old, Beeld newspaper reported.
The Working for Water initiative, administered by the department of water affairs and forestry, was created to fight invasive alien plants.
But a Working for Water team destroyed some 150 yellowwood trees in March this year after chopping them down and then poisoning them, the report said.
Beeld was quoting from a report drafted by Allan Howells, former Ezemvelo environmental manager in KwaZulu-Natal.
Howells said he visited the Drakensberg Sun outside Winterton in March and witnessed workers sawing through yellowwood tree stumps and laying the stumps out on forest roads.
He investigated the matter and discovered that a contractor, who had been doing work for Working for Water for six years, destroyed the trees because she and her team thought they were black wattles.
Black wattles are regarded by many environmentalists as South Africa's worst weed species.
Beeld said it had learnt that the contractor's contract had been ended.
Working for Water told the newspaper that it would comment at a later stage.