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CHAMPION TREES
 
Background

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) initiated a project to identify and protect trees worthy of special protection throughout South Africa. Such projects have been established in several countries, but this is the first of its kind in Africa. Champion trees are trees of exceptional importance that deserves national protection because of their remarkable size, age, aesthetic, cultural, historic or tourism value.

The first individual tree to be declared as protected under the National Forests Act of 1998 in 2003 was a historic English oak tree, the only remnant of the old Sophiatown that was razed to the ground by the previous government when it resettled that community in the 1950s. This intervention was an attempt to stop the imminent destruction of the tree by a property owner, and protection was afforded only after the tree was severely pruned. This was the starting point of the Champion tree project, aimed at preventing similar destruction of other trees of national importance by identifying and declaring them as protected timeously.

Any person or organisation can nominate trees for Champion status. A nomination form can also be obtained from the Department and has guidelines attached for the nomination process. Nominated trees may be indigenous or non-indigenous. Every nomination cycle starts on 1 August of each year, and ends at 31 July the following year.
 
At the end of each nomination cycle (every August) an expert panel will evaluate all nominations and compile a shortlist of proposed Champion Trees. This list will first be published for comment, and after consideration of public comments, a final list will be published by notice in the Government Gazette and newspapers. In this manner more trees will be added to the list of Champions year after year.
The largest tree in SA: Sagole baobab, Limpopo
Source: DWAF
 
300 year old Camphor trees at Vergelegen, Cape Town
Source: DWAF
 
Protection

Once listed as protected by notice, Champion Trees will have special protected status in terms of the National Forests Act of 1998. No such trees may be cut, disturbed or damaged without a license. A strict approach will be taken to protection, and licenses will be issued only under exceptional circumstances, such as a tree posing a danger to life or property.

Additional protective measures may be necessary for some trees, such as the erection of fencing enclosures. This project will also aim at raising awareness about the ? national tree heritage, and to promote it as an asset for tourism.

Report the disturbance of a Champion tree to the relevant DWAF provincial forestry officer.  

 
Nomination of Trees for 2005

During August 2005 the first evaluation of nominated trees took place by a panel of experts specially appointed by the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry. The first Champion trees proposed by this panel will appear by notice in the Government Gazette and national newspapers this year. These include the largest tree in South Africa, a baobab at Sagole in Limpopo province with a height of 22m and a massive stem circumference of 32,8m. Also proposed as Champion tree is the tallest tree in Africa, an 81m tall Eucalyptus planted in Magoebaskloof in 1906. Trees of historic value include camphor trees planted at Vergelegen Estate by WA van der Stel three centuries ago, and the famous post office milkwood tree at Mosselbay in which it is believed the Portuguese seafarers left messages in a shoe in the 16th century. Another tree with an interesting history is a Lombardy poplar tree that served as a landmark indicating the safe house run by Ruth Fischer (daughter of Braam Fischer, founder member of the SA Communist Party) to activists on the run from security police in the struggle against Apartheid. The tree attracting most visitors is the Tsitsikamma Big Tree, a giant Outeniqua yellowwood visited by more than 8? 000 people per year, including many overseas tourists.

 
 
 
Related References
 
 
  Champion Trees Poster, 2004
  Methods and Procedures for the Selection of Champion Trees in SA, 2003
 
Contact Details
 

Assistant Director
Izak van der Merwe
Tel: (012) 309 5771
Email: izakvdm@daff.gov.za

 

Assistant Director: Forest Regulation
Mrs Shumani Dzivhani
Tel: (012) 309 5765
Email: shumanid@daff.gov.za