The Department of Environmental Affairs has given the assurance that concrete measures are being put in place to protect the country’s rare indigenous plant species from extinction. This comes after Minister Edna Molewa was asked in the National Assembly what the department was doing to counter the “unprecedented extinction rates” of those species.
Molewa said the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), part of the department, monitored and reported regularly on the status of the country’s biodiversity and the conservation status of “all threatened species and ecosystems.” Furthermore, South Africa was party to several international conventions that aimed to conserve and protect “valuable species and achieve sustainable use of our natural resources,” said the minister.
Some of those international agreements include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBC) and Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Molewa highlighted that South Africa was the first signatory country to the CBC to achieve the Global Plant Conservation Strategy’s comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of the plant species. “South Africa is the first of 17 mega-diverse countries to comprehensively assess the status of its entire flora. This assessment was published by SANBI, as part of its Threatened Species Programme (TSP), in a publication titled ‘Red List of South African Plants’(2009), which doubled the number of plants on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
“For the first time in South Africa, all 20 456 plant species were assessed using IUCN criteria,” she said. The monitoring of national plants was also being done through a programme called the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflower (CREW), which involved a range of volunteers from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. “There exist 26 volunteer groups operating across South Africa. Together, they have produced 4 890 records of monitoring threatened plant populations during 2009/10. “More than 12 000 populations of threatened plants have been monitored during the course of the project, during which 14 new plant species were discovered, while 12 species listed on the plant red list as possibly extinct have been rediscovered and are now considered critically endangered, but not extinct,” Molewa said.