PLEASE COPY THIS ENTIRE MESSAGE AND DISTRIBUTE IT TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN THE WORLD OF CYCAD CONSERVATION.
DRAFT PETITION (if no-one else is doing anything about it)
Objection against the proposed implementation of the amendment of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (10/2004) as published in the Government Gazette No. 34026 on 15 February 2011.
To: The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs
From: Private stakeholders in the conservation of protected flora as listed in the most recent IUCN
redlist. (See signatures at bottom of this objection)
This letter serves as a representation of the collective objection of various stakeholders who will be affected by the implementation of the proposed amendment. We, the stakeholders, are private individuals from different walks of life who have a keen interest in cycad conservation through artificial propagation.
The suggestion to prohibit the trade in specimens of Encephalartos species, listed as critically endangered with a stem diameter of more than 15cm, except of Encephalartos Cupidus, which cannot be traded with if the stem diameter is more than 7cm, for a period of 5 years, will add a tremendous amount of value and exclusivity to the respective species. Whilst potentially curbing the trade of said species in the commercial market (eg. Registered nurseries, private growers, etc.), it will only present an increase in the demand of larger species on the black market, as this will be the only place to obtain specimens of the respective species referred to in the proposed amendment.
We unreservedly agree that the illegal collection of wild specimens poses as a very big problem for the conservation of threatened and protected flora, but we fail to see how the proposed amendment will have a direct effect on the elimination of illegal trade. It will most likely fuel the demand for more large species, as specimens above 15cm will not be available on the commercial market any longer. Private conservationists such as us who perform legal activities that are managed and controlled by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, eliminate the strain on habitat plants as we continually supply the commercial market with artificially propagated seeds, seedlings, pollen as well as adult specimens.
We also appreciate the waiver on condition that plants larger than 15cm can still be exported/re-exported in cases where the said plants have been micro-chipped by the Issuing Authorities. It is unclear whether “export” in this case refers to “Provincial” or “International” export, therefore this proposal is too vague and leaves a lot of room for confusion. It has also been widely reported that microchips places unnecessary strain on large specimens due to the fact that the plant tissue itself is damaged, leaving room for fungal development and ultimately, the demise of the plant. Many collectors are strongly against the micro-chipping of plants due to the fact that it places the plant itself at risk – and the micro-chips do not have a very extensive lifespan. If a micro-chip fails, it voids that plant from the database, therefore it is not a long-term workable solution. Criminals and poachers also do not care much for microchips as they are easily detected and removed from the host plants. Wounds are sealed and given time to heal, which in effect reintroduces the respective specimens to the “black market”.
In conclusion, we call for a more personal synergy between the Department of Environmental Affairs and tourism and all the various stakeholders and we strongly urge for a more open forum whereby the future of these species can be fairly debated between all the various parties and stakeholders, to find an active solution to the current pressure on said species, which will be mutually beneficial to the Department and private stakeholders. This synergy should focus on the conservation of species and its ultimatum should be to eradicate poaching and illegal trade, instead of bordering on the tendencies towards financial interest. Illegal collection of wild specimens is the major perpetrator in the extinction of said species – and while failed attempts to curb poaching is contributing towards the demise of wild species, the proposed amendment in dispute will place a further pressure on private collections which currently seems to be the answer to the failed apprehension of poachers.
We whole-heartedly object to the implementation of the proposed amendment, concluding that it will have a negative effect on the conservation of wild species and will place further strain on private growers who artificially propagate plants to ensure their survival. Instead, we call for the shift of focus to the development of techniques which can accurately identify the sources of plants, to scientifically distinguish between wild-collected and artificially propagated specimens. We furthermore propose an amnesty period which provides a window wherein current owners of said species can obtain permits for all plants not currently listed in the databases of provincial departments of Nature Conservation, after which date all plants not recorded on the database be considered “illegal”, and we further call for a systematic approach towards the tagging of plants by means other than micro-chipping, unless an insurance grant is offered by the government that will provide financial cover in the case where micro-chips installed by Issuing Authorities have gone defective or caused diseased/death of affected specimens.
We implore the Minister to take heed to our call for more active debate between affected parties, so that those with expertise can contribute in the best interest of government, policing of listed species, protecting of legally obtained collections by means of legal trade or artificial propagation, and most important, the protection of the remaining wild populations through contributions in various forms made by all affected parties.
The unified community of stakeholders affected by the proposed amendment, as listed below.
To add your name to the list via e-mail, please send a mail to CycadForumPetition@groups.facebook.com with your name, surname & contact number.
To add your name directly to the official petition group on facebook, please join at the following link and add your name to the wall: http://www.facebook....203349486342364