150 yellowwood trees poisoned

2009-08-04 11:37

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.

  • D - 2009-08-04 11:47

    Gee whizzz, I thought Julius Malema had a problem, but this is certainly the cherry on top of the cake. How dumb do you get!!!! I hope they chop those people houses down or something like that and how can you give the contract tosome one who is so uninformed and educated on that matter....Viva Rainbow nation, oh sorry, Viva land of waste, rubbish, corruption, poverty, "townships" aka - wastelands becuase of all the rubbish laying everywhere, violence and toi toi. What a rainbow.

  • john - 2009-08-04 11:57

    I am utterly gob smacked! How in gods name does anyone remotely aquainted with trees mistake a black wattle for a yellow wood!?!?!?! The bark is vastly different, as is the shape, colour and composition of the leaves. The wood is different not only intexture, but colour as well. The trees have adifferent growth habbit and shape, and the flowers are wourlds apart.
    I say someone as stupid as this needs to get shot! Or even better, banished to live in a crummy batchelor pad in hillbrow - with NO access to anything green!

  • Erich - 2009-08-04 11:58

    I recon "mistaken identity" is not a good idea to use here. Its an utter disaster. They look totaly different from each other. Perhaps the contractor did know what he was doing as the price for yellowwood far outweighs that of wattle.

  • Nielssen - 2009-08-04 11:59

    Why do human beings disrupt - I find this story disgusting.

  • Corry - 2009-08-04 12:00

    Mistook them for Black Wattles. What utter hogwash. The contractor was unscrupulous and had probably been selling the wood for way more than what the contract was worth. A pity that such beauty should be destroyed.
    No doubt an nepotistic ANC crony that didn't even get a slap on the wrist.

  • donmulto - 2009-08-04 12:07

    they must be blind if they cant see the difference between a black wattle and yellow wood trees. they were probably selling the wood to make extra cash.

  • Anne - 2009-08-04 12:09

    Oh boy - what next? They probably have an uneducated, doesn't-know-anything-about-trees manager that was promoted from gardener. I have noticed a tendency in this country to just chop down trees willy-nilly. Why not just prune them!!!!! Also, all along Main Road near Kyalami they planted trees in the middle island after the road widening was completed and nobody has bothered to go back to stake them after falling over in the wind. A lot have already died. What a waste of money!!!!!!!

  • Jo - 2009-08-04 12:10

    What a tragedy!Some tender rewarded to somoene who know somoene perhaps....?!Working for water should take resposibility and replant ALL of thos trees!!

  • Foom - 2009-08-04 12:10

    Stories like this make me incredibly sad. The contractor should be prosecuted and be forced to repay whatever profit he/she made.

  • Louis - 2009-08-04 12:15

    Raw yellowwood sells for R10000 per cubic meter. These trees were probably used for firewood. Not only were we robbed of the aestetic value of the trees, the commercial opportunity of the wood has also been lost. Even a blind person would be able to tell the difference between Yellowwood and Black Wattle. And I mean literally: they are completely different in bark texture, size and leaf structure. Of course we can not rule out that it was done deliberately by someone who wanted the valuable wood. Technically the trees were the property of the state and criminal charges can be laid against the contractor who had them removed without authority, even if it was by accident. Surely the tender document stated that the contractor should know what he is doing?

  • Stunned - 2009-08-04 12:16

    This just wants to make me cry. What total stupidity. PS: What happened to the precious wood?

  • ich - 2009-08-04 12:16

    Shocking !!!! We want explanations from Working for Water NOW !!! Some heads need to roll !

  • Alma - 2009-08-04 12:17

    Unbelievable. Totally frikkin' unbelievable.

  • Sam - 2009-08-04 12:23

    Mistake or not, what they did was illegal and they should answer for this in a court of law. "Working for water" should replant all those trees! Were they not supervising their own contractor??

  • Marthin - 2009-08-04 12:24

    The Yellow Wood can be marketed and sold and the profit that will be made by this company will be about 1000 times more than what they would have been paid for the project. I.e. was it really a case of mistaken identity or do you think it might be another case of corruption and a money making scheme that unfortunately was uncovered?

  • Wolf - 2009-08-04 12:33

    If somebody's caught breaking into you car would you accept an excuse of mistaken identity? It's entirely gullible to believe the explanation offered; this was theft of a resource worth millions.

  • brad - 2009-08-04 12:35

    Not only should the contractor be put in jail she should be made responsible to replant twice as many yellow wood saplings. no wait, bad idea- she would probably plant wattles...

  • Jay - 2009-08-04 12:49

    utterly pathetic. (To me) It makes sense that anyone employed or contracted in this sort of job should have at least a diploma in forestry and if she had any idea what she was doing she wouldn't have mistaken a yellowwood for a flipping black wattle. Just another example of human incompetence destroying our poor planet..

  • Shocked - 2009-08-04 12:49

    Those who were supposed to do the identification were probably BEE placements -just more proof that positions are not being filled by the right people

  • Abri - 2009-08-04 12:52

    If they could just see the wood for the trees...This bunch is thicker than the 100 year old trees that were axed!

  • AmaZING - 2009-08-04 12:54

    OY! Come on lads, most of you probably can't tell a yellowwood from a black wattle anyway, so why are you all moaning? It's an easy mistake to make, just the other day I accidentally shot a black rhino thinking it was a meerkat. Easy mistake...

  • Houghton Harper Inc Attorneys - 2009-08-04 12:54

    Working for Water, should not only replant the forest they destroyed, but should donate the value of the wood in Rand value to a conservation organisation that knows what its doing and are situated in the valley. We propose Monk's Cowl Nature Conservation.

  • Disgusted - 2009-08-04 12:54

    Knowing what greed and fraud takes place in South Africa today, is everyone sure that the contractor did not know that it was yellow wood trees? What happened to the wood after it was cut down

  • Mr Universe - 2009-08-04 13:03

    Mistakes happen, lets forgive and forget. However what if they are doing it and its not a mistake, like for instance the SANParks staff who are chopping down 800 year old yellow wood tree's in the Tsitsikamma. They are calling it scientific research. Environmental mismanagement if you ask me!

  • Topdog - 2009-08-04 13:04


  • Billy Griffiths - 2009-08-04 13:12

    I'm speechless...this is shocking and sad. :(

  • adam botha - 2009-08-04 13:45

    criminal charges should be brought against this contractor as would be the case of a civilian being punished to the full extent of the law, for doing the same.I would not be surprised if this was a under the counter transaction to manipulate the system and benefit a third party. Yellowwood trees are distinct and highly distinguishable from wattle.I hope that these trees are auctioned off publicly and the money raised, used to replant yellowwoods in that area.

  • lilla - 2009-08-04 14:04

    I am sure they were high on Durban poison.What a shame? What happened to the wildlife that lived in these trees? Heads have to roll and names should be metioned.
    Who is this contractor working for now?

  • Tim - 2009-08-04 14:22

    'mr universe' there is a time and a place for forgiveness... and now is neither the time or the place! This calls for a united front from people with a concern for the environment. I for one would take them to court if I had the money available.

  • Joe - 2009-08-04 15:31

    stupid, i know, but heck D, do you think you are adding anything constructive here? get out of our faces with the negativity. you are not perfect yourself you know!

  • Roberto - 2009-08-04 16:28

    We were at the Drakensberg sun in the last week in January this year on a walk to the blue grotto. We noticed and reported the destruction of yellow wood trees to the manager of the Hotel who promised to attend to it immediately! Why did it take till now to stop it????

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