Building capacity and awareness of prosecutors in response to succulent plant poaching

Nov 22, 2023 | WFA News

South Africa’s Succulent Karoo Biome is one of only two desert biodiversity hotspots. It is exceptional among the world’s desert regions because of its extraordinary rich diversity of pant species and the richest succulent flora in the world. The region boasts 6356 species of vascular plants of which 26% are strict endemics and occur nowhere on earth.

Since 2018 the illegal trading of plants for ornamental purposes, has become a world-wide problem.  As of December 2022, over 414,000 illegally harvested plants have been confiscated and the illegal removal and trade in succulent plants continues at an alarming rate with several species pushed to the brink of extinction.

During 2021, South Africa’s government along with conservation agencies and NGO partners drafted a National Response Strategy and Action Plan to address the illegal trade in South African succulent flora and this was endorsed for implementation on 11 March 2022.

Through the financial support from IUCN Save Our Species and co-funded by the European Union,  Wilderness Foundation Africa, in collaboration with the South African National Biodiversity Institute, Botanical Society of South Africa and Conservation South Africa, developed  a project based on the key actions identified in the National Response Strategy.  This project is currently being implemented to pilot emergency conservation interventions for succulent species in the Succulent Karoo Biome.

One of the objectives of this year-long project was to look to support improved investigation and prosecution capacity in the Namaqualand region.

In order to achieve this Wilderness Foundation Africa along with its partners carried out two training workshops in Okiep and Niewoudtville with 22 prosecutors participating. Along with the project partners the input and support of Traffic, CapeNature, SANParks, Northern Cape Conservation Department and the South African Police Service is gratefully acknowledged.

The project would not have been possible without the excellent cooperation of the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa and the process benefitted significantly from the experience of seasoned prosecutors who participated both in the planning and the facilitation of the workshops.

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union through IUCN Save our Species. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Wilderness Foundation Africa and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN or the European Union.