TAGUA PALMS

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

What’s that, a high-end Caribbean resort?

Nope. It’s a type of South Amer­i­can palm tree that just might help to save the world’s ele­phants from ex­tinc­tion.

How so?

The trees have large seeds mea­sur­ing up to 8cm across that can be dried out, hard­ened and then carved into trin­kets and jew­ellery. When pol­ished, the re­sult­ing at­trac­tive, off-white sub­stance closely re­sem­bles ele­phant tusk – so much so that the seeds have been dubbed ‘veg­etable ivory’.

That sounds great. But ex­actly how threat­ened are ele­phants?

The num­ber of ele­phants in the wild is still fall­ing dra­mat­i­cally. It’s es­ti­mated that up to 100 an­i­mals are killed by poach­ers each day to meet the con­tin­u­ing de­mand for ivory.

But isn’t the trade in ivory il­le­gal now?

Well, the world­wide sale of new ivory was out­lawed in 1989 – but crim­i­nal gangs con­tinue to poach ele­phants and trade ivory on the black mar­ket.

Tagua seeds could of­fer an eco-friendly al­ter­na­tive to ivory

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