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Ex-situ conservation of Madagascar's endangered orchids

Micro-propagated seedlings of Angraecum longicalcar at PBZT. Attempts to bank seeds of this species have failed so we aim to cryopreserve protocorms in liquid nitrogen. Photo: S.Cable.

The Orchidaceae is the largest family of flowering plants in Madagascar with over 1000 species. A large number of taxa are yet to be identified and over ninety percent of species are endemic to the island. Hundreds of species are found only in one or two locations in the wild and are threatened by habitat clearance through logging, charcoal production and agriculture, in addition to the collection of the rarest and most charismatic orchids for the horticulture trade. In Madagascar, orchids are generally found in inaccessible areas, therefore collection trips are expensive and difficult. Expeditions are organised to collect a wider selection of plants and orchid seeds are collected opportunistically.

The purpose of this project is to develop and implement a programme of ex-situ conservation of the most threatened species, through new seed collecting methods whereby seeds are collected over a broad range of maturity. We aim to establish living collections of the critically endangered species in Madagascar, at Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza (PBZT), and at Kew over the next 10 years. The living collections will become an insurance policy against extinction. Long-term ex-situ conservation will be achieved through cryopreservation of protocorms at Kew's Conservation Biotechnology Unit and by banking seeds at the Millennium Seed Bank in the UK and Silo National des Graines Forestières in Madagascar. The project will explore the possibilities of developing a sustainable income for local communities and individual endangered species conservation and restoration projects, by micro-propagating seeds and greenhouse production of plants. This will also serve to take the pressure off wild populations, which are the source of most locally traded orchids in Madagascar. This project is a partner of the Madagascar Orchid Conservation Project and aims to develop the techniques necessary for that project to implement a broad strategy for orchid conservation in Madagascar. KMCC will provide the work on the ground, testing new techniques, collecting seeds and living plants for seed production, propagating plants with PBZT and working on endangered species in partnership with communities.

Project partners and collaborators


Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza