Climbers to Clamber up local tree giants

Letaba Herald

January 2013

An international team of tree climbers who arrived in Cape Town on January 4 for a month long expedition to climb Champion Trees throughout the country, will make two climbs in the Tzaneeen expidition

The aim of the expedition, under the leadership of David Wiles of the United Kingdom, it to scale about 20 of the largest and oldest trees in South Africa, all listed under the Champion Tree Project of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

These trees include several venerable yellowwood trees towering above the canopy of the Knysna forests, giant baobabs such as the iconic Sagole tree in Vhembe District, the Matumi triad of trees at the Amorentia Estate near Tzaneen known as the Three Queens, and the tallest tree in Africa – a Saligna gum tree growing in the Woodbush State Forest. The team shares a passion for trees and has climbed tree giants in various parts of the World.

Leon Visser, a tree climbing enthusiast from Stellenbosch will be joining the expedition on some of the climbs.   Visser has worked with the Department in determining the height of very tall “Champion Trees” that cannot be reliably established with instruments.

Currently more than 70 trees and groups of trees have been declared by the Department as “Champion Trees”, based on criteria such as size, age and historical value. These trees are all protected under the National Forests Act. Tree Climbers have a passion for scaling the biggest and oldest trees, and height is not always the defining criterion.

The Sagole baobab, for example is only 22m tall, however a mathematic size formula established it as the largest indigenous tree in the country on the basis of its trunk circumference (more than 33m).

Through this tree climbing expedition the climbers hope to raise awareness of trees and the need to protect our heritage. The department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in partnership with the Dendrological Society of South Africa assisted in organising the expedition and obtaining necessary approval from various landowners and conservation authorities.