Xhosa traditional medicines.The use of animals and animal-derived materials in traditional medicine constitutes an important part
of the belief systems of indigenous African cultures. It is believed to be rapidly expanding in South Africa, where traditional
healers are estimated to outnumber western doctors by 2000:1 in some areas, with an overall clientele consisting of 60–80% of
South African citizens. Despite concerns about the impact of the trade in traditional medicine on biodiversity, there has been only limited research on this topic in South Africa.
Traditional Xhosa and Sotho healers operating from impoverished, rural communities in the Boland Region of the Western Cape
Province were consulted to provide a comprehensive inventory of the number and frequency of animals used and sold. Species
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The most commonly sold items were skin pieces, oil or fat, and bones. Results showed that leopard, chacma baboon, Cape
porcupine, monitor lizard species, puff adder, African rock python, and black-backed jackal were the species most used in the traditional medicinal trade.
This study extends existing knowledge on the trade of animals in South African healing practices and provides the first attempt in
the Western Cape to quantify wildlife use for cultural traditions. The results have relevance for setting conservation priorities and
may assist in effective policy development inclusive of ecological sustainability priorities, as well as cultural demands.
Background ! Xhosa traditional medicines!
Zootherapy has existed in traditional folk pharmacopoeias throughout history and remains an integral component in traditional medicinal practices and other cultural applications in contemporary landscapes worldwide particularly in African , Asian and Latin American countries .
Similarly in South Africa, the trade of, and dependence on, natural resources as traditional medicine amongst primarily indigenous
African cultures and associated traditional healers in South Africa subscribe to it.
often preferred to those of Western doctors. Furthermore, the relatively few per capita Western doctors available in South Africa
have resulted in a large proportion of the country’s population being more dependent on traditional medicine. Estimations by
several authors suggest that between 60 and 80% of South African citizens have at some point either purchased traditional
medicine or consulted with a traditional healer . This is particularly relevant to communities existing in poor, rural areas (> 50% of
the South African population) where little opportunity exists to consult with university-educated doctors, while traditional healers in comparison are far more accessible ].