Here’s a Question For You Regarding Rare Palm Trees and Cycads

I’d like to start up a new charity to protect vulnerable palm tree and cycad species in the world. But how should the fund raising from this charity be best spent in achieving that goal? I guess the first thing to do is identify what it is that is causing them to be vulnerable, and then spend the money in trying to reverse whatever it is. Well I’m pretty sure of what it is threatening them, but I’m not sure that the money can help. At least the money can’t help directly. I’ll explain why I think this a little further on.I’ve looked at other wildlife charities, and how they spend their money. And to be quite honest, their intentions are good but I don’t think the way most of them spend their money is effective in achieving their goals.CITES, though not a charity is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Basically, it controls the international trade in endangered species. Now CITES works for Elephants, Rhinos, and other animals. I’m not knocking it for that. However, it only helps to protect plants when those plants are not easily bred in cultivation and where fresh stocks of plants are taken (dug up) from wild populations. On the most part plants can be raised in cultivation, and do not have to be taken from the wild. CITES regulations on these plants slows down or even stops them being bred, sold-on, and planted. Indeed, CITES is contributing to the extinction of some of these plants. Because trade is not the culprit, loss of habitat is. CITES cannot stop plants being dug up. It can’t stop plants being cleared for agriculture, forest fires natural or otherwise, rapid climate change, or disease outbreaks. By allowing trade in plants raised in cultivation it would be creating potential gene pools of species scattered over many countries, where local threats would not threaten the entire population of a species. Regular trade would also lower the value of the species, and would mean there would be less incentive for people to go out and dig up wild plants.While I’m on the subject of CITES I’ll just mention the other thing that it does, which for the life of me I cannot fathom the reason for. It also controls the trade in seeds of endangered species. I can see the good intentions of trying to stop plants being dug up from the wild, but seeds? A plant, in its lifetime only has to produce one viable seed, which grows into a plant that survives to maturity for the population of the species to remain at the same numbers. If two seeds grow to maturity then it doubles its population. I don’t have the answer to just how many seeds a palm or cycad might produce in its lifetime, but Cycads can live to be several hundred years old. I’ll use an Oak tree as an example; An Oak might live for 400 years, and in that time it will produce more than 4 million seeds. It only needs one seed of those 4 million in 400 years to survive to maturity to maintain the balance of population. All the other seeds generally get eaten by birds and animals, some young plants get eaten, get mowed off, or can’t find a gap in the canopy to allow them to grow old. The life expectancy of a plant raised in cultivation is many many times higher than that of a plant in the wild. To sum this up; we should encourage wild seed collection for cultivation, where we can be assured that we’re not robbing the vital food source for animals. The more plants we grow the more plants there will be. At least we then have the option to be able to re-stock wild populations.I ran a bit off topic there for a moment. I don’t want to knock CITES too much. Their intentions are good. But this brings me back to my question of how should the fund raising be best spent to protect the trees. Well we’ve identified the problem to be habitat loss. This might be due to natural causes, but on the most part it is caused by people. Many charities use their fund raising to purchase land as a conservation reserve. Nothing much wrong with that. But I have a problem with who the money actually goes to. More often than not the money goes into the pocket of some fat government official, who if he didn’t make is money that way would have been making it by destroying that habitat for its natural resources. Blackmail. That’s a bit of a generalisation but you see my point? Surely that land belonged to the people who live on it and draw their livelihood sustenance from it. I don’t like to use the word livelihood it implies that they make money from it. I don’t approve of people making money from robbing the natural environment. I think that people should use natural resources sustainably to maintain a natural balance.One idea, which has recently been put into practice, is that we educate local people in the rarity, and value of the endangered trees growing on their land. Then encourage them to harvest the seeds, and sell them themselves internationally. Therefore, creating a value on the trees, and dissuading them to cut them down to clear the land for agriculture. This would also mean that they would try to protect the trees from natural disasters. It all sounds good on paper. However, thus is the nature of people greed comes into the equation. The people who own the trees and the people involved in helping them market the seeds overseas are asking too much money for the seeds. After-all the seeds are rare, only they have them, and they know rich westerners want them. This could lead to tribal warfare, there being no seeds left in the wild for regeneration or feeding wildlife. It also puts the value of the plants up, creating a black-market for them and encouraging unscrupulous people going out to dig them up from the wild. In the long-term these plants will be bred in the western world, and the local people in the native land will no-longer have a market for their expensive seeds. They will no doubt no-longer value the wild trees and clear them to make way for agriculture. Of-course they will be wealthier now from all the money they made from selling seeds, and now they will have bigger families with more mouths to feed. The wild trees will come down faster than ever. That might be a pessimistic view, but surely if they sold the seeds at a lower price then it wouldn’t be cost effective to grow them commercially in the west and the local people will have a long-term sustainable income?It is obvious to me, judging by all that goes on in the world that my views are very much the minority. It is my view that the whole world under my feet belongs to me, just as it belongs to every other person on the planet, and every animal, bird, invertebrate, plant etc.. Or is it the other way round? And all living things on this planet belong to this planet. Either way each and every living thing has a responsibility to not over reproduce to the extent that it causes another life-form to be threatened with extinction. We should only take from nature what we need to sustain ourselves whilst maintaining a healthy balance of nature. Of-course there are other influences on other species, which are not caused by humans. But the question of should we interfere with the natural selection of nature is a different debate.We should all be doing our utmost to prevent species decline without needing to be paid for it. I feel paying money to someone else to save something which is already mine is a kind of blackmail. Ok, western countries have made mistakes in the past and have caused many many species to become extinct. But this was during a time when we didn’t know better. Nobody has the right to use this argument today.So how should the fund raising money be best spent to preserve vulnerable palm trees and cycads?

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