Tahina spectabilis is a Critically Endangered palm, only known from a very small area in northwest Madagascar. The main population was censused in 2008 and just 26 adult plants were found, with two adults located at a distance from the main population. The main population is found in and around an island-like fragment of tsingy (limestone karst), in seasonally flooded land, near a cashew-nut plantation. There was genetic evidence that potentially other populations of Tahina may be undiscovered in the area and another small population had since been reported in the area, but it had not yet been fully surveyed.
The main aims of this project, generously funded by the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, were to return to Tahina in the wild in 2016, re-survey the population, work with the local community on the ongoing conservation of the species, and to look for more populations of the plant.
The original objectives of the fieldtrip were all met, and the trip was extremely successful. The original site was reached by land for the first time ever, the population re-surveyed, and found to be in good condition with natural recruitment taking place. Community-based conservation efforts at the site have been made and sustained over the last eight years and there seems to be a commitment to continue this work in the future. A new site was found, near to the original site, with a healthy seedling population and discussions took place with the local community to include this in future conservation activities.
Excitingly a completely new site for the species was also discovered as part of the MBZ funded expedition, much further inland, and with serious conservation threats to the new population's survival. As a direct result of this work, efforts are now being made to work with local people to protect the small population.
Work is now continuing on the conservation of Tahina, to produce a practical species conservation action plan following on from the draft management plan produced during this project; education materials are being provided for the local communities to support their engagement in the conservation of the species; and population genetics work on the species is underway to investigate the genetic diversity represented in the wild to help guide future conservation of the species.
See our three recent blogs on this project for more:
and the announcement of the discovery of the second site in the Conservation News section of the journal Oryx:
Gardiner, L.M., Rabehevitra, D., Letsara, R., & Shapcott, A. (2017). Discovery of a second population of the Critically Endangered Madagascan suicide palm Tahina spectabilis. Oryx 51(2): 205-206. DOI: 10.1017/S003060531700014X. Available online
Project 160512492 location - Madagascar, Africa