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Madagascar Aloe Conservation Project

Project purpose: to assess the conservation status of Madagascar’s species of Aloe, develop and implement a conservation strategy incorporating in-situ and ex-situ measures, and publish an identification guide for workers in the field.

KMCC botanist Solofo Rakotoarisoa studies Aloe capitata. Photo S.Cable

In Madagascar, the genus Aloe L. comprises 121 species (147 taxa), of which all are endemic to the island. Most taxa have very restricted distributions and are represented by small populations. Aloes are highly sought-after by foreign and Malagasy horticulturists and represent around 5% of all exported ornamental plants from Madagascar. All species of Aloe (except for A. vera (L.) Burm.f.) appear on CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species). The first scientific collection of an aloe in Madagascar was made in 1848 and the genus was treated for the Flore de Madagascar. in 1938. Reynolds produced a comprehensive treatment in 1966, including 47 species, but over the last decade over 50 new species have been published. In Madagascar research on the genus proves to be difficult, mainly because of the paucity of herbarium material: 95 taxa are represented by only one collection, and 71 species have not been collected during the past 50 years. The question remains whether these aloes are now extinct or difficulties of identification result in botanists over-looking them in the field. Currently, only 2 Madagascan species appear on the IUCN Red Data List, namely Aloe suzannae Decary and A. helenae Danguy, both are assessed as Critically Endangered. Most species have very restricted distributions with small populations and are vulnerable to human pressures such as bush fires and illegal collecting.

The project aims to develop a conservation action strategy for the aloes of Madagascar and collaborate with other research and conservation organisations to implement the strategy on the ground. The conservation status of all taxa will be assessed, and we intend to inform the strategy with phylogenetic data. The project will test the use of ecological profiling and predictive mapping to help the project team find aloes in the field. KMCC has already successfully demonstrated this technique for predicting palm distributions in the humid forest regions of Madagascar. We aim to collect seeds of at least 70% of all taxa as part of the MSBP programme in Madagascar, and we hope that the aloes will prove to be a good indicator group for hotspots of endemism within the sub-arid, dryland and highland regions. A major constraint to working with aloes is their identification, and a photo field guide will be published that is aimed at non-specialists such as conservation workers, protected area managers and communities.

Output 1) taxonomy and systematics
• Identification guide with synonymy, conservation assessments, ecological profiles and predictive maps.
• Molecular phylogeny and hotspot analysis.

Output 2) conservation assessment
• Extinction risk and climate change modelling for selected endangered species.
• Overview paper on current conservation status and outlining a conservation action strategy.

Output 3) in-situ conservation.
• Data to Rebioma and Système d'Aires Protégées de Madagascar managers.
• Community-based conservation of critically endangered species (funds permitting).

Output 4) ex-situ conservation
• 100 taxa (70%) banked by the MSBP and Silo National des Graines Forestières.
• All endangered species in living collections (e.g. Kew, Parc Tsimbazaza, Antsokay Arbretum).

Project partners and collaborators

Madagascar

Silo National des Graines Forestières

Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza

Antsokay Arboretum

WWF

South Africa

Ronell R. Klopper (South African National Biodiversity Institute)

Project funders

UK

Millennium Seed Bank Partnership

Bentham-Moxon Trust

Project team

Herbarium

Stuart Cable, Paul Wilkin

Jodrell

Felix Forest, Olwen Grace

Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre

Solofo Rakotoarisoa, Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, Bakoly Andrianaivoravelona, Hélène Ralimanana, Gaëtan Ratovonirina

Science Teams: