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.