Leave the cycads in Mozambique
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.