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Media Release: Shifting Baobabs in the KNP

Date: 3rd June 2005

South African National Parks (SANParks) is well known for its ability of shifting large animals like elephant, rhino and giraffe, but this week history was made with the translocation of two baobab trees from Letaba Main Camp to the new Giriyondo Border Post on the Mozambique border.

Although this unusual translocation wasn’t the first baobab translocation ever, it was still a challenge to SANParks because of the extreme weight of the trees themselves and their close proximity to buildings and other facilities in Letaba Main Camp.

South African National Parks (SANParks) is well known for its ability of shifting large animals like elephant, rhino and giraffe, but this week history was made with the translocation of two baobab trees from Letaba Main Camp to the new Giriyondo Border Post on the Mozambique border.

Although this unusual translocation wasn’t the first baobab translocation ever, it was still a challenge to SANParks because of the extreme weight of the trees themselves and their close proximity to buildings and other facilities in Letaba Main Camp.

“The motivation for the translocation of the trees was twofold. With no large trees presently on site at the Giriyondo Border Post, these two baobabs will immediately provide structure to the garden at the post. Both baobabs also posed a threat to infrastructure in Letaba and would eventually have had to be destroyed – and act that is almost sacrilege. You simply do not destroy something so majestic when there is a chance of saving it,” said SANParks project leader and Mooiplaas Section Ranger Johann Oelofse.

Mr Oelofse has been tasked with landscaping the new border post on the South African side of Giriyondo said that the task held great challenges to him and his team, which was ably and generously boosted by a team of willing volunteers from major sponsors Sasol Nitro Phalaborwa and JP Crane Hire.

“One of the baobabs, probably about 30 years old, has a trunk diameter of around 1,5 metres and weighs in at around seven-and-a-half tons. The other younger tree weighs in at around 3 tons and has a trunk diameter of 60 cms. Both trees are well over 10 metres tall, which posed tremendous challenges for us,” Oelofse added.

Using considerable skill provided by Sasol Nitro Phalaborwa rigger “Oom” Willie Roux and Mr Oerlofse’s team of laborers, huge holes were dug out underneath the trees and supported using nearby poles, buildings and other features. Then, using JP Crane Hire’s gigantic FAUN 140 ton crane, both trees were lifted clear of any obstruction – including Letaba’s Reception Building – and carefully placed on two large trucks, one supplied by KNP Game Capture and the other supplied by JP Crane Hire.

After supporting saddles were made for the trees on site, both baobabs were securely strapped down and departed Letaba for the last time and headed for Giriyondo Border Post, roughly 45 kms away.

Meanwhile, holes 2,5 metres deeep and 2,5 metres in circumference were being prepared for the re-planting of the trees. This also proved to be a huge challenge:

“We struck solid rock virtually right on the surface but Sasol Nitro Phalaborwa came to our rescue by supplying not only the necessary blasting explosives but a blasting expert. Not only were the holes blasted, but the necessary drainage channels were created out of the solid rock,” Oelofse explained.

Before the trees were gently lowered into the holes, they were treated with sulphur powder, also supplied by Sasol Nitro Phalaborwa. Oelofse then created a mix of soils before the trees were lowered into place and secured with four long poles.

The two baobabs will form the focal point of the South African side of the Giriyondo Border Post’s landscaping which, partly as a result of a shortage of irrigation water, will be restricted to plants and trees indigenous to that region of the Kruger National Park.

Mr Rudi Tonsing, who heads Sasol Nitro’s Phalaborwa operations, said the sponsorship provided by the company endorsed the group’s commitment to environmental preservation thoughout Southern Africa.

“It’s comforting to know that those baobabs could still be in place a thousand years from now,” he added.

Northern Regional Manager for the KNP, Mr Ben van Eeden thanked all concerned after the operation was concluded late last night.

“I am sure in the years to come, people will admire these beautiful baobabs as they cross the border and we should remember the valuable contribution made today with a suitable plaque that will help to tell the story,” he said.

… Ends

Issued by:
Raymond Travers, Media Relations Practitioner, Kruger National Park. Tel: 013 735 4116, cell: 082 908 2677 or E-mail

Enquiries:
William Mabasa, HOD: Public Relations and Communications, Kruger National Park. Tel: 013 735 4363, cell: 082 807 3919 or E-mail

A baobab, weighing in at more than seven tons, flies over the Letaba Main Camp reception building. It is then lowered gently onto a waiting low bed truck.


Both baobabs slowly but surely moved towards their new home at Giriyondo Border Post.


A 10 metre tall baobab is lifted off a low bed truck and gently hoisted to its new home at Giriyondo Border Post.


Soil is carefully placed underneath one of the baobabs. The new Giriyondo Border Post building is seen in the background.


At sunrise on the 1 st of June, this baobab rested near the Letaba Main Camp reception building. At sunset on the same day, it enjoyed the golden light of the sun going down at it’s new home on the Mozambique – South African border.

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