Sustainable trade in wildlife products

What we do

This programme co-ordinates research and surveys of animal and plant species that are in trade or are utilised, and the development of management tools to promote sustainable use. Projects are undertaken in collaboration with a number of partner organisations. Current projects include:

  • National resource assessments for Pachypodium bispinosum and Pachypodium succulentum
  • Resurveys of priority Encephalartos species in Mpumalanga
  • An investigation of stable isotope and radiocarbon dating techniques for tracing origins of ex situ cycads (see Nature article)
  • Development of genetic fingerprints for Cape parrots
  • Baseline field surveys of priority succulent plant species
  • Development of genetic markers for detecting hybrid wildebeest
  • An investigation of the utilisation and management of TOPS- and CITES-listed medicinal plant species in Limpopo province
  • Quantifying the internet pet trade in indigenous reptiles
  • Development of a Biodiversity Management Plan for Critically Endangered and Endangered Encephalartos species
  • Red Listing of utilised and traded mammal species
  • A survey of TOPS-listed species traded in the Faraday muthi market

mediumWhere we work

Current projects are active in all nine provinces of South Africa.

Reason for our programme

Part of SANBI's mandate is to generate knowledge and disseminate information on the sustainable use of biological resources. A relatively large number of South African species are still traded from wild sources. The trade in species includes traditional medicinal use, as well as general medicinal use (e.g. hoodia, devil's claw), trade for specialist collections (e.g. cycads, succulents, reptiles), and hunting and fishing. It is necessary to understand how these species respond to harvest from the wild as well as the dynamics that affect sustainable use of these species.

There are also regulatory requirements, such as the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), where information on species is needed. This work is being co-ordinated as part of SANBI's commitments to the Scientific Authority.

What we have achieved

The SANBI Species ID Tool, which includes an electronic cycad identification key, is a decision support and easy reference tool that will assist customs officials, law enforcement officers, border police and environmental management inspectors with the identification of South African TOPS- and CITES-listed species. Field-based population and ecological studies have broadened our knowledge of traded species such as Aloe plicatilis and Aloe peglerae. A desktop review of the inheritance, the historical and natural occurrence, the ecological role, and market and ranching trends of colour variants in game species in southern Africa has provided the Scientific Authority with important information.

Who we are

The programme is co-ordinated by Michèle Pfab, the Scientific Co-ordinator of the Scientific Authority. Partner organisations currently include the Universities of Cape Town, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Pretoria, the National Zoological Gardens, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa and Strategic Environmental Focus.

MTPA cycad surveysFor more information

Contact Michèle Pfab

Last updated on 12 November 2014
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