For use of the media only;
not an official document.
Experts to tackle threats to medicinal
and other high-value plants
The Netherlands, 13 May 2002 - Concerned for the long-term survival
of rare plants valued for their medicinal and other qualities, the
Plants Committee of the Convention on Endangered Species in International
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is meeting here from 13-
17 May to evaluate how to promote the conservation and sustainable
use of several particular plant varieties.
The devil's claw (so named because of the peculiar
shape of its seeds), or Harpagophytum, is a medicinal plant native
to Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. It is used in pharmaceuticals
for treating arteriosclerosis, diabetes, hepatitis, and other complaints.
The plant is under pressure due to over-harvesting, expanding exports
to Europe, destructive harvesting practices, and over-grazing by
livestock and wild herds.
The range states and the European import states met in Namibia
in February to discuss the devil's claw's future and assessed its
population status, distribution and trade volumes. Based on the
report of this meeting, the Plants Committee will consider how best
to promote sustainable development of the plant. Devil's claw is
not currently subject to any CITES trade conditions.
Agarwood is a product obtained from various species of the genus
Aquillaria, which ranges from Papua New Guinea to Vietnam. It results
from the trees' reaction to a fungus infection of the wood. Agarwood
is used to produce incense and perfumes, mainly in the Middle East.
High-quality Aquillaria wood can fetch up to US$10,000 per kilogram.
Only part of the wood of one in five trees is infected, and agarwood
can be detected only once the tree is cut down and broken into smaller
parts. This encourages indiscriminate cutting, which is posing a
serious threat to the trees' survival. The Plants Committee will
discuss the results of field surveys in Papua New Guinea, the development
of molecular analyses of powdered wood that could be used to identify
the origins of a particular tree, and recommendations for future
Guaiacum is a genus of three or four tree species from Central
America. It is mainly traded for its greenish coloured wood and
its medicinal properties. The Plants Committee will discuss issues
relating to the identification of the wood and a proposal from one
government to list the species on CITES Appendix II, which regulate
their trade through a system of permits.
The Committee will also consider the merits of removing artificially
propagated hybrids of several genera of orchids from Appendix II.
These hybrids are traded in very large quantities, but the trade
itself has no impact on the natural populations. Delisting them
would allow enforcement officers to pay more attention to trade
aspects of greater relevance to nature conservation.
The Plants Committee's recommendations will be forwarded for action
to the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, which
takes place in Santiago, Chile, from 3 to 5 November 2002.
Note to journalists: For further information please contact Michael
Williams at +41-22-917-8242, +41-79-409-1528 (cell) or email@example.com.
For official documents and other information, see www.cites.org/eng/com/pc/index.shtml.