Illegal Harvesting of Endangered Traditional Medicinal Plant in Brackenridge Nature Reserve, SA

An Investigation of Illegal Harvesting (Poaching) of Endangered Traditional Medicinal Plant Brackenridgea zanguebarica oliv (Mutavhatsindi) in Brackenridge Nature Reserve, South Africa

By Tshianeo Mellda Ndou

Brackenridgea zanguebarica oliv is a plant species which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In South Africa, this plant is only found in one area around a small village in Mafukani in Thengwe, Limpopo province, South Africa. Due to its rarity in the country, Brackenridgea zanguebarica is being poached/illegally harvested for medicinal and economic purposes. Brackenridgea zanguebarica oliv is commonly known as Yellow peeling plane and locally known as Mutavhatsindi. Once peeled or poached, the plant produces a yellow pigment, hence the Yellow peeling plane name.

Tshisikhawe et al., (2013) indicated that a blade of Brackenridgea zanguebarica oliv is used to extract the bark from tree. The poachers extract the buds and the tree is left with the yellow-pigmented skin, which prevents nutrients from being transported to other parts of the tree. As a result, the tree dies due to lack of nutrients. The regenerating capacity of the Brackenridgea zanguebarica is difficult and in most cases, the tree does not regenerate. However, a new tree will grow and protrude next to the old poached tree.


Figure 1: Evidence of poaching

Source: Tshianeo Mellda Ndou



The land has become barren and no Brackenridgea plant species can be found because the soil is infertile. According to Tshisikhawe (2002), the population of Brackenridgea zanguebarica declined during the process of road construction and, due to the heavy machinery that was used to extract the soil, the land has become barren and some plants species cannot survive. Figure 2 illustrates the environmental damage that has been caused by the poaching of these plants and extraction caused by the local road construction.


Figure 2: Land Degradation due to poaching and extraction of soil for road construction

Source: Tshianeo Mellda Ndou



It can be said that unregulated exploitation of medicinal plants species continues to occur although the environmental compliance officers are aware of the rules and regulations regarding endangered medicinal plants species. According to research conducted by Moeng and Potgieter (2011), the accelerated poaching activities show that the efforts to protect species through national and provincial legislation has been ineffective. There must be firm implementation of environmental laws and regulations to save the Brackenridgea zanguebarica oliv from facing extinction. Figure 3 shows the trade of traditional medicinal plant species in Thohoyandou, South Africa.



Figure 3: Trade of Traditional Medicinal Plants in informal sector

Source: Tshianeo Mellda Ndou



About the author

My name is Tshianeo Mellda Ndou and I am from South Africa. I recently finished my Master in Environmental Sciences, specializing in Ecology and Resource management. The title of my thesis was Poaching of Endangered Cycad species, Encephalartos transvenosus in Limpopo Province, South Africa.


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