The Sunday News
Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE invasive lantana camara plant is reportedly fast spreading into the Victoria Falls National Park where environmentalists have warned about its threat to the Rainforest ecosystem.
Lantana camara is broad-leafed and evergreen shrub which rapidly spreads in tropical areas to form dense thickets that cause extinction of other species. It is also poisonous to animals.
Close to 100 volunteers drawn from tourism players, environmentalists and ordinary citizens in Victoria Falls and surrounding villages last week took part in an exercise to weed out the plant.
The exercise was co-ordinated by Greenline Africa Trust and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks).
They used hoes, shovels and picks to dig out the thorny shrubs, which after 10 days, the dried shrubs will be gathered and given to basket weavers who use its soft stem for basket making.
A University of Zimbabwe Geographical Information Science student Mr Muziwethu Sidambe, attached to Greenline Africa Trust said research had shown that uprooting the plant is the best way to eliminate it.
“This is a poisonous plant which has invaded the Rainforest and is spreading rapidly thereby threatening other species. Because of the concern we carried out a research last year where we consulted some other institutions and identified the cut-root method as the most effective,” said Mr Sidambe.
A young environmentalist, Nkosilathi Nyathi, an Inyathi High School pupil who has represented Zimbabwe at various environmental platforms encouraged youths to participate in environmental management programmes.
“This is an important exercise to make sure our environment remains stable and balanced to make sure other plants are not destroyed.
“We should all do this so we save the environment and balance the ecosystem,” he said.
Greenline Africa Trustee Ms Charlen Hewat said beside the Victoria Falls National Park which houses the Rainforest and David Livingstone statue, they had identified other areas heavily invaded by the plant along the Zambezi River.
“We have come together at the Victoria Falls Rainforest, one of the natural wonders of the world with more than 80 stakeholders including the tourism industry in partnership with Zimparks to remove lantana camara which is spreading. So we need to get on top of it and remove it before it destroys our pristine environment.
“We decided that removing it physically is the best hence the fantastic cut-root method. Some use chemical methods but being close to the river we need to be very careful.
“We realised huge success when we piloted the cut-root method last year and I think if we continue with this annual exercise in the next four to five years we would have reduced the population of lantana,” she said.
Every year various organisations participate in an exercise to weed out the plant during winter.
This year the exercise came at a time when the Rainforest is closed because of the Covid-19- induced lockdown hence giving environmentalists enough time to work without disturbing tourists.