Conservation Status

Cycads around the word face many threats that include illegal trade, illegal harvesting of cycads from the wild; habitat destruction, use in traditional practices and threats from alien vegetation. In South Africa the biggest threat facing cycads is the illegal harvesting of plants from wild populations to supply both domestic and international markets. There is an urgent need for South Africa to focus its attention on cycads, to prevent further extinctions and to allow for the recovery of overexploited wild cycad populations.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that cycads are the most threatened plant group in the world. Of the 308 species of cycads that exist in the world around 190 species are presently threatened with extinction. South Africa is recognised as one of the global hotspots for cycad diversity with 38 cycad species. However, South Africa is also one of the hotspots for threatened cycads with around 26 of South Africa’s cycad species threatened with extinction and 12 cycad species classified as Critically Endangered.

Critically Endangered means the species faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Of the four cycad species classified as extinct in the wild globally, three are from South Africa and two became extinct in the wild between 2003 and 2010. With seven of South Africa’s cycad species numbering less than a 100 individuals in the wild, South Africa is at risk of losing these cycads within the next 2-10 years if measures are not taken to halt the illegal harvesting of these cycads from the wild. Estimates suggest that given the ongoing rate of illegal cycad trade in South Africa around 25 species will become extinct in the immediate to near future. The table below (from www.sanbi.org) shows that according to the last IUCN red data listing assessment for South African cycads that three are Extinct in the Wild, 12 Critically Endangered, four Endangered, nine Vulnerable and seven Near Threatened.

Table listing the cycad species found in South Africa and their IUCN conservation status as well as their listing under NEMBA.

Latin Name

South African Red data listing

NEMBA
(National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 - Threatened or Protected Species listing)

Encephalartos aemulans

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos altensteinii

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Encephalartos arenarius

Endangered

Endangered

Encephalartos brevifoliolatus

Extinct in Wild

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos caffer

Near threatened

Protected

Encephalartos cerinus

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos cupidus

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos cycadifolius

Least Concern

Protected

Encephalartos dolomiticus

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos dyerianus

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos Eugene-maraisii

Endangered

Endangered

Encephalartos ferox

Near Threatened

Protected

Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi

Near Threatened

Vulnerable

Encephalartos ghellinckii

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Encephalartos heenanii

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos horridus

Endangered

Endangered

Encephalartos hirsutus

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos humilis

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Encephalartos inopinus

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos laevifolius

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos lanatus

Near Threatened

Vulnerable

Encephalartos latifrons

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos lebomboensis

Endangered

Endangered

Encephalartos lehmannii

Near Threatened

Protected

Encephalartos longifolius

Near Threatened

Protected

Encephalartos Middelburgensis

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos msinganus

Critically Endangered

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos natalensis

Near Threatened

Protected

Encephalartos ngoyanus

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Encephalartos nubimontanus

Extinct in Wild

Critically Endangered

Encephalartos paucidentatus

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Encephalartos princeps

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Encephalartos senticosus

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Encephalartos trispinosus

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Encephalartos transvenosus

Least Concern

Protected

Encephalartos woodii

Extinct in Wild

Critically Endangered