Cycads across the globe face several threats, including trade in wild collected plants, habitat destruction, traditional use, threats of alien vegetation and unviable populations. In South Africa the biggest threat facing cycads is the poaching of plants from wild populations to supply both the domestic and international cycad trade. There is an urgent need for authorities in South Africa to focus attention on cycads, to prevent further extinctions and allow for the recovery of over exploited wild cycad populations. Poor implementation of past and current legislation with limited/weak law enforcement, unsuccessful prosecutions and ineffective sentences is the major factor that has resulted in the cycad extinction crisis.
At present, of the Encephalartos species in South Africa, three are already extinct in the wild (EW) and 66% are classified in one of the threatened categories, 12 are Critically Endangered, 4 Endangered and 9 Vulnerable. Of the 67 known species of Encephalartos cycads endemic to the African continent, South Africa is home to 38 of them 29 of which are endemic to the country, making South Africa an important hotspot for cycad diversity.
Cycads are often referred to as "living fossils" and have changed little since the Carboniferous period 50-60 million years ago. Cycads are often confused with both palms and tree ferns because of a superficial resemblance , however they are actually totally unrelated("http://www.sospecies.org/sos_projects/plants/cycads/south_african_cycads/)
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