Traditional healers involved in drive to conserve endangered pepper bark tree

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is embarking on a new project to save the pepper bark tree (Warburgia salutaris) which is widely harvested by traditional healers because of the medicinal properties of its bark.

It is listed as endangered in South Africa and further afield.

The EWT says it's excited to "work hand in hand with the community" to conserve the species, starting in the western Soutpansberg.

On Weekend Breakfast, Refiloe Mpakanyane finds out more from Dr Jenny Botha, the manager of the trust's People in Conservation Programme.

She says the project is part of a bigger vision in the area to work towards ensuring that the community also benefits from conservation.

It's really important, obviously, to conserve the habitats of threatened species but also to ensure that the species that are valued by people are conserved and that they'll be available for future generations.

Dr Jenny Botha, Manager - People in Conservation Programme at Endangered Wildlife Trust

To this end they're following an integrated approach - along with strategic research to define the conservation status of the species in the western Soutpansberg, the focus is also on the people

This is primarily aimed at enabling traditional health practitioners to access the pepper bark tree and find more sustainable ways of harvesting it.

Fortunately the pepper bark tree is a little bit easier than many other medicinal species because the leaves can also be used for medicine. That makes it easier to harvest sustainably.

Dr Jenny Botha, Manager - People in Conservation Programme at Endangered Wildlife Trust

We need to work with people to ensure the dosages are correct and enable them to access trees as well. Many traditional health practitioners are willing to grow the species on their homesteads.

Dr Jenny Botha, Manager - People in Conservation Programme at Endangered Wildlife Trust

Find out more about how the project aims to achieve its objectives in the audio below:

Thumbnail image: Endangered Wildlife Trust on Twitter


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