Leave the cy­cads in Mozam­bique

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We’ve just re­turned from a few days at Ma­caneta north of Maputo in Mozam­bique. While there, we came across sev­eral young boys sell­ing cy­cad seed cones as well as small cy­cad plants, their bare roots dan­gling limply in the air. This is not a prod­uct the boys would be sell­ing if there were no mar­ket. Who is buy­ing, if not South Africans? Traf­fick­ing cy­cads is il­le­gal, so why would you trade on the en­thu­si­asm of lo­cal peo­ple to please vis­i­tors and make a lit­tle money, and in do­ing so plun­der their own coun­try’s re­sources? My point is that when we leave home, we should al­ways be on our best be­hav­iour and re­spect the peo­ple, laws and cus­toms of the coun­try we’re vis­it­ing. I want to be wel­come wher­ever I go and this can only hap­pen if my fel­low South Africans are also model tourists. DAPHNE HAMIL­TON, Mooinooi

WYNAND VAN EEDEN, ed­i­tor of the jour­nal of the Cy­cad So­ci­ety of South Africa, says: This is the seed cone of En­cephalar­tos ferox. This par­tic­u­lar species may not cross the bor­der with­out the nec­es­sary CITES doc­u­men­ta­tion and a valid im­port per­mit sup­plied by the lo­cal con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties. South Africans like to col­lect these plants. Most peo­ple think they’re “sav­ing” the plants or aid­ing con­ser­va­tion ef­forts by buy­ing cy­cads and get­ting them to grow back home. But in re­al­ity, all they’re do­ing is en­sur­ing a de­mand for il­le­gal plants, which leads to the veld be­ing plun­dered. When one cy­cad pop­u­la­tion is dec­i­mated, the poach­ers sim­ply move on to the next. From a con­ser­va­tion per­spec­tive, I rec­om­mend vis­i­tors never buy seed cones or plants. You also run the risk of be­ing caught with these plants at the bor­der – the new en­dan­gered species leg­is­la­tion al­lows for higher fines and prison time. En­joy the cy­cads in their nat­u­ral habi­tat and take pho­tos, but leave them where they are. You can get this species for an af­ford­able price at spe­cial­ist nurs­eries in South Africa.

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