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Eighty three percent of Madagascar’s palms are threatened with extinction, putting the livelihoods of local people at risk – according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ released today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The update brings the total number of species listed on The IUCN Red List to 65,518, of which 20,219 are threatened with extinction.

The assessment of Madagascar’s palms was carried out by the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Palm Specialist Group, as part of an ongoing assessment of all palms. The findings draw on research by experts at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – an IUCN Red List partner.

“The figures on Madagascar’s palms are truly terrifying, especially as the loss of palms impacts both the unique biodiversity of the island and its people,” says Dr Jane Smart, Global Director, IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group. “This situation cannot be ignored.”

Palms are an integral part of Madagascar’s biodiversity and all of the 192 species assessed are unique to the island. They provide essential resources to some of Madagascar’s poorest communities, such as materials for house construction and edible palm hearts. Habitat loss and palm heart harvesting are major threats putting these species at risk.

“The majority of Madagascar’s palms grow in the island’s eastern rain forests, which have already been reduced to less than one quarter of their original size and which continue to disappear,” says Dr William Baker, Chair of the IUCN SSC Palm Specialist Group and Head of Palm Research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. “The high extinction risk faced by Madagascar’s palms reflects the decline in these forests, which threatens all of the remarkable wildlife that occurs there.”

Populations of many palm species are at risk as land is being cleared for agriculture and logging.