Stop the shaving of our palm trees

Eileen van der Schyff

The shaving of our palm trees might look fashionable to some, but not only does it strip away the natural beauty of the environment, this “fashionable” practice also destroys the habitat of Palm Swifts (mainly found inland), doves, rock pigeons, sparrows finches and wagtails and leaves the palms vulnerable.

The old dried-out leaves of these palms serve a very important purpose. These dried out, grey, dead leaves form a protective dense covering around the stems of palm trees. These leaves serve the same purpose as the bark of trees. The covering of the palm stem by these dead leaves, protects these palms from dehydration and disease. The African Palm Swift also known as the Windswael (Cypsiurus parvus) nests in palms such as the Washingtonia Palm found in large parts of Namibia. The stripping of the leaves of these palms at the coast leaves crushed eggs and baby birds on the ground. “A plea from many residents at the coast to stop the practice of stripping the bark and old leaves form our palm trees falls on deaf ears. “The biggest culprits are the Municipalities that clearly have absolutely no knowledge of these trees and the purpose they serve in nature.
Palm Swifts, in particular do not land to gather nesting material, but they gather nesting material floating in the air, on their wings. With this material, they fly in under the dead palm leaves. Swifts use their saliva to glue the nesting material onto the dead palm leaf to form a tiny nest. Swifts mate while clinging to the leaves. Using saliva, the female glues each egg (she usually lays two) on the palm leaf and the nest. When the eggs hatch, the chicks cling to the dead palm leaves until they are ready to fly. They take their first flight by dropping out from underneath the leaves into to the sky. Palm Swifts can’t take off horizontally. They need the dead leaves of Palms to cling to and drop from in order to take flight.

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