Warburgia salutaris (Pepper Bark Tree), was once widespread in South Africa and has long been one of the most sought after commodities in the Southern African traditional healthcare sector.
The Warburgia salutaris Project supports the efforts of the Kruger National Park to protect South Africa's most endangered tree by reintroducing it into communities. The focus is on growing and supplying Warburgia salutaris (Pepper Bark) to Traditional Healers and communities to reduce the commercial poaching value of the plant.
The Warburgia salutaris has been categorised as 'endangered' on the International Conservation Union (IUCN) and South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) red species list. It was identified in 1926 as a tree of significance and is now under threat from overharvesting. For centuries the Warburgia salutaris (Pepper Bark) Tree has been traditionally used to treat malaria, common cold, coughs and sinusitis. It is believed to have been traded by Arabs at one time and is now used in commercially available western homeopathic remedies.
In the past, only Traditional Healers would harvest the bark of the tree. Thin strips would be taken, which allowed for the tree to regenerate. However, fuelled by the demands of a growing urban population, Warburgia salutaris groves in the Kruger National Park are repeatedly raided by illegal harvesters who send the bark to the muti markets in Johannesburg and Durban. The whole tree is debarked resulting in destruction of the tree. The switch from sustainable collection to commercial gathering has meant that this tree in its natural habitat is now on the brink of extinction.