Pretoria, 20 June 2014 – Plants from three cycad species considered extinct in the wild in South Africa are growing in private collections and can, through collaboration between government and the public, be instrumental in re-establishing populations in the wild.
This was one of the key findings of a workshop between private growers, the government and other interested parties, facilitated by the South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SAHGCA), to help create a common understanding of the challenges facing cycad conservation in South Africa and the role each stakeholder can play in curbing the ongoing extinction threat of this group of special plants.
Lizanne Nel, SAHGCA conservation manager, said she was pleased with the progress made at the workshop and the unanimous agreement by all parties that the private sector could and should play a crucial role in the conservation of this primeval species. “Cycads predate the dinosaurs and have survived three mass extinction events but are now considered one of the most threatened taxonomic groups globally. Unlike the rest of the world where the cause of decline is mostly attributable to habitat loss, the biggest threat to South Africa’s cycads is the illegal collecting of wild plants” she said.
Held earlier this month, the workshop served to facilitate dialogue between private growers and the government, clarify misunderstandings around the Convention of International Trade and Species (CITES) and Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) regulations on the trade of cycads and identify opportunities for collaboration in the field of cycad conservation.
Agreements reached at the workshop included the need to establish a forum to maintain open and frank discussions with government; to involve the private sector in the development of a national cycad Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) and National Conservation Strategy (NCS); the need to distinguish between cycads from the wild and propagated plants when regulating trade; and the consideration of plants with good biodiversity “integrity” in private collections that can be used in re-establishing wild populations. Additionally, creating incentives to protect wild cycads for landowners and rural communities as well as the need to raise the profile of cycad conservation among the public were also discussed at the meeting.
The workshop was well attended by members of the public, as well as representatives of the Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the Scientific Authority, the Cycad Society of South Africa, the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Limpopo Economic Development and Tourism Department, Strategic Environment Focus, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the South African Nursery Association.
“As a firm believer in the conservation and responsible utilisation of our natural resources for the benefit of all our people, SAHGCA believes that through the creation of an enabling environment for the private sector, landowners, private growers and communities to protect these species and to generate benefits in a responsible manner, we can not only propagate and reintroduce critically endangered cycads in the wild but create viable industries in the field of cycad cultivation and eco-tourism that can address both conservation and socio-economic objectives,” she said.
Recommendations from the discussions will be submitted to the minster of Environmental Affairs.
Please find the Cycad Round-table Documentation and presentations in the table below: