Sunday, October 21, 2012 Madagascar: Nation's Palms Near Extinction

Eighty three percent of Madagascar's palms are threatened with extinction, putting the livelihoods of local people at risk – according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species released today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Palms are an integral part of Madagascar's biodiversity and all of the 192 species assessed are unique to the island. They provide essential resources to some of Madagascar's poorest communities, such as materials for house construction and edible palm hearts. Habitat loss and palm heart harvesting are major threats putting these species at risk.

Populations of many palm species are at risk as land is being cleared for agriculture and logging.

Ravenea delicatula, (Critically Endangered), is known from just one site, but the site is not protected and it is being threatened by local people clearing the forest to cultivate hill rice, and by miners looking for minerals and gems such as rubies.

The recently discovered Tahina Palm (Tahina spectabilis), also known as the Suicide Palm, has been listed for the first time on The IUCN Red List. Large enough to be viewed on Google Earth, it grows up to 18m in height. A few months after flowering and producing seeds, the tree dies.

With only 30 mature palms found in the wild, it is classified as Critically Endangered, and much of its habitat has been converted to agricultural lands. Madagascar: Nation's Palms Near Extinction