Cycads face extinction

2010-10-27 21:17

Johannesburg - The cycad, which is the world's oldest living seed plant and has outlived the dinosaurs, faces extinction if people continue to wrench the plants from their wild habitats and plant them in gardens.

This is according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature on Wednesday.

In an address to delegates at the Biodiversity Convention in Japan, the IUCN said that cycads were the most threatened group of organisms to have been assessed by them so far.

The global conservation assessment of 308 cycad species shows that their status has declined from 53% threatened in 2003 to 62% threatened in 2010. The South African National Biodiversity Institute said the country was one of the world centres of cycad diversity with 39 species.

"It is also one of the global hotspots for threatened cycads with 68% of South Africa's cycads threatened with extinction compared to the global average of 62%. From South Africa 31% are classified as critically endangered, compared to the global average of 17%.

"South Africa also has three of the four species classified as extinct in the wild, two of which have become extinct in the wild in the period between 2003 and 2010," the institute said.

The removal of cycads from the wild for private collections has resulted in two species becoming extinct in the wild.

Bark harvesting for the medicinal trade has increased in South Africa and has also resulted in declines in cycad populations, even resulting in the complete loss of populations in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, said the institute.

"We have seen dramatic declines in some species over ten years, one of them from around 700 plants to fewer than 100, and this is going to result in extinctions," it said.

  • Shaun - 2010-10-28 09:04

    Draconian methods are required. Simply outlaw the demand going forward. Can't go too much underground as they are prize display pieces in peoples/institutions gardens. Current permit holders with known number of cycads to be incentivised to relocate part of their collection back into the wild.

  • Ian D. Samson - 2010-10-28 10:14

    It's no wonder, really, when one can see the locals extracting these plants from their natural habitat and trying to sell them alongside our national roads!

  • Tank - 2010-10-28 10:55

    Forginve my ignorance but how can a plant be extinct if it is found in every garden? Maybe it will be extinct in the wild but what difference does it make if a plant is in your garden or in the veld?

  • BigD - 2010-10-28 14:24

    Well Tank, let’s split all the Rhino's into different camps so that they cannot reproduce. While we are at it, let’s put White and Black Rhinos together so that they can create something totally different and then try and decide if it is still a true Rhino. Cycads removed from their natural environment will not be seen as true to species as some chop decided to go and remove it from a certain location and in that way making it much more difficult to pollinate with a cycad from the same colony. The resulting seedlings will not be guaranteed to be true to the mother / father plants. Plants from all over the country are now located in one garden and if they are coning plants might create hybrids. Thus the 39 different officially recognised species will not be unique amongst the others and will be seen as extinct.

  • Nessy - 2010-10-28 21:43

    Aw....I feel really bad about this. I have 2 in my garden and I paid quite a bit for them.Had I known they were endangered I wouldn't have bought them :-(

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