Timber versus Nature

The rolling ‘green’ hills of Mpumalanga Province in South Africa conceal a cruel reality


Large-scale industrial tree plantations such as this one (above) have been called “green blankets of death” by an ecologist who is based in the area
Natural landscapes that formerly were habitat for many different kinds of wild plants and animals, have been systematically trashed and turned into pulpwood plantations. However, those responsible did not expect that some of the victims of this ruthless destruction of nature might fight back.
Plantation owners have accused local baboon troops of deliberately damaging or destroying some of their ‘valuable’ pine and eucalyptus trees, and claimed to have lost millions of Rands as a result. This has claim led to an aggressive campaign to eradicate the baboons by various methods of trapping, shooting or poisoning, and it has been estimated that many thousands have been killed in these ways over the years.
However, it appears that there is no conclusive evidence that the claimed monetary losses can be substantiated by the plantationry companies that have supposedly been detrimentally affected. Furthermore there is no way to determine which individual baboons might have actually been responsible for the observed tree damage. Yet policy has still been to eliminate entire troops, so as to make certain that a few possibly guilty individuals would be executed (along with the rest of their families).

The group Baboon Matters has produced this documentary video to highlight some unresolved issues, such as the pain and suffering inflicted on the baboons being killed

Despite strong opposition from local environmentalists, this indiscriminate  killing of baboons has continued, with the full support of consultants paid for by the timber industry, and the blessings of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
All kinds of quasi-scientific studies have been undertaken to try to explain why baboons strip the bark off plantation trees, but without much success, probably because it is too difficult for plantationeers to understand how much the baboons must hate their sterile tree plantations. If those baboons who had suffered the loss of their homes and food resources, had access to guns, and knew how to use them, perhaps their response would have been different.
In the interim, the baboon killing saga seems to have gone to ground, but there will be renewed awareness with the release of the Baboon Matters video, and an article (plus video) published in The Lowvelder, a local newspaper. See http://lowvelder.co.za/374771/sabie-blood-baboon-killing-fields-upset-wild-life-activists/.
This despite the feisty efforts of a local environmental NGO called GeaSphere to put the issue on the global map. Clearly the plantationeers involved must have had  financial and political support to get their way, but much more needs to be done to keep their cruel behaviour under the spotlight.
To hell with local communities, ecosystems, biodiversity, water resources and the precious top soil. Money is all that matters to them.



After the bomb! What tree plantations do to the land
Wally Menne
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