Working with Traditional Healers to save an Endangered Medicinal Tree: Pepper-bark Tree (Warburgia salutaris)

Louise Swemmer
Publicado: 16 Diciembre 2021
Última edición: 16 Diciembre 2021
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Warburgia salutaris–  Pepper Bark Tree (English), Xibhaha (Tsonga), isibhaha (Zulu),  is harvested for various reasons such as timber and firewood – with its use in traditional medicine having the most notable impacts. Demand for this species was so high that even populations within protected areas were being harvested.  In efforts to mitigate the decline in this species, a very successful conservation model has been developed and implemented since 2009 to reduce the threat of overharvesting of wild subpopulations present within Kruger National Park (KNP) in South Africa. Approximately 30000 saplings were mass propagated in a partnership between the South African National Parks (in the Skukuza Indigenous nursery) the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), SAPPI and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). These saplings have been distributed to user groups in the vicinity of the Kruger National Park, both in Limpopo and in Mpumalanga Provinces, including to Traditional Healthers.


África Oriente y África del Sur
Scale of implementation
Ecosistemas de pastizales
Pastizales templados, sabana, matorral
Acceso y participación en los beneficios
Ciencia y investigación
Comunicación y divulgación
Conocimientos tradicionales
Especies y la extinción
Gobernanza de las áreas protegidas y conservadas
Institucionalización de la biodiversidad
Medios de vida sostenibles
Poblaciones indígenas
Salud y bienestar humano
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Evaluación del estado de las especies
Seguimiento e investigación de especies
Manejo intensivo de especies (in situ o ex situ)
Planificación de la conservación de especies
Pérdida de la biodiversidad
Usos conflictivos / impactos acumulativos
Cacería furtiva
Sustainable development goals
ODS 11 - Ciudades y comunidades sostenibles
ODS 12 - Producción y consumo responsables
Aichi targets
Meta 1: Aumento de la sensibilization sobre la biodiversidad
Meta 2: Valores de biodiversidad integrados
Meta 4: Producción y consumo sostenibles
Meta 11: Áreas protegidas y conservadas
Meta 17: Estrategias y planes de acción para la biodiversidad
Meta 18: Conocimiento tradicional
Meta 19: Intercambio de información y conocimiento


South Africa | Zimbabwe, Eswatini


Even though W. salutaris can withstand a certain degree of harvesting, through regrowing stripped bark and production of coppice shots, detrimental harvesting methods such as ring-barking consequently results in death of the tree. Warburgia salutaris is highly sought after because it has chemical medicinal properties that can treat various ailments such as malaria, colds, and coughs. Hence the demand for its tissue (leaves, bark, and roots) is increasing with an increase in human population globally. Other development activities such as agriculture also impact the wild populations of this species due to habitat loss because areas are cleared out to make way for agricultural activities, residential areas, shopping malls, sand mining and other social developments.


Traditional Healers play a central role in South African communities, as they are the main health care providers to the majority of rural based South Africans. 

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

These projects aim at mitigating the decline of W. salutaris in the wild while ensuring the sustainable use of this species for socio-cultural well-being of the communities.


In 2020, an extended consortium of conservation partners led by SANBI developed a Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for six species, which included W. salutaris. The BMP involved community engagements with the network of Traditional Healers working in the region to encourage a collective approach, which is inclusive of the socio-cultural beliefs of the communities before implementing conservation initiatives. As a result of this engagement there will be an expansion of the Traditional Healer home-garden approach for a suite of medicinal species throughout Mpumalanga and Limpopo. A further propagation and distribution project is also being planned for the northern Limpopo region run by the Endangered Wildlife Trust with support from the Franklinia Foundation. As a result of conservation interventions undertaken, it appears that pressure on wild populations is decreasing. As a result this species has been down listed to “Vulnerable” in the 2021 Red List assessment undertaken as part of the IUCN’s Global Tree Assessment. This is an excellent example that conservation efforts can mitigate pressure on species while still meeting the cultural and health needs of local communities. 

Contribuido por

Imagen de Nolwazi.Mbongwa_41439

Nolwazi Mbongwa South African National Biodiversity Institute, University of Cape Town

Other contributors

South African National Biodiversity Institute
South Africa National Parks