Toromiro tree, Sophora toromiro
The last known wild toromiro on Easter Island was chopped down for firewood in 1960. Many trees had been felled for building materials, canoes and carvings. The species’ fate was finally sealed by sheep and cattle browsing on its bark.
Before it died, the Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, managed to collect seed from this tree.
The few toromiro trees growing in European botanic gardens have been grown from Thor Heyerdahl’s seed.
Detective work by Kew scientists, based on genetic fingerprints taken from these trees and from a few others in Chile, USA and Australia, has confirmed which of the trees known as toromiros really are Sophora toromiro.
By careful breeding, conservationists can ensure that the species’ remaining genetic diversity is conserved, ensuring the best chance of success for any reintroduction programmes.
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