Know, grow, protect and enjoy South Africa's indigenous plants

Our Conservation Work

BotSoc champions biodiversity conservation in South Africa to protect our indigenous plant diversity and ecosystems.

Succulent plant crisis

South African succulent plants are under threat as a result of the poaching and illegal trade of these species for the ornamental market. Since 2019, global demand for our succulents has risen rapidly, driven largely by emerging markets across Asia, America and other countries.

The Succulent Karoo biome has been particularly affected, with many of these species desired by plant collectors. In fact, the latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, released in July 2022, now includes 210 species of succulents that have been listed for the first time, due to the dual threats of illegal trade and climate change. The genus Conophytum is especially heavily targeted – and makes up the majority of the species added to the IUCN’s list.

The IUCN now places 45% of Conophytum species in the Critically Endangered category, i.e. in imminent threat of extinction, and 97% of the genus is listed in one of the three threatened categories. According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute, it’s likely that some of these species are already extinct in the wild.

Confiscated plant material 

Some of the stolen plants are confiscated by law enforcement at our country’s airports and borders. In the past three years, confiscated plant material has increased by 250% per year. Currently more than 200 000 succulents that have been confiscated from poachers are at various national botanical gardens across the country and are in need of potting and maintenance. 

BotSoc joins hands to take action

This is where the Botsoc Pretoria/Tshwane branch have shown their true spirit of volunteerism, teaming up with the Pretoria National Botanical Garden team to rescue these confiscated plants, and maintain them, so that they can be used in the pending legal cases. The BotSoc Kirstenbosch branch has also assisted both financially and with volunteers to safeguard confiscated collections.

The BotSoc team has also played a key role in drafting the National Response Strategy and Action Plan to address the illegal trade of SA’s succulent flora, as a collaborative effort by government departments, conservation authorities, non-governmental organisations and local communities. The document seeks to coordinate actions to protect our succulent plants, while promoting  sustainable socio-economic development in the country.

Our invitation to the 2021 Calitzdorp Vetplantfees also provided an opportunity to bring together growers, conservation officials, SANBI and peer NGOs to further enhance collaboration in a space where, historically, trust levels were low.

Much work still needs to take place to bring this crisis under control and to prevent more extinctions. And this will only be possible if partners continue to work together. We also see knowledge sharing to be at the heart of solving this challenge, and BotSoc will focus our advocacy work on raising awareness around this challenge.

The IUCN’s support

With lead partner Wilderness Foundation Africa and Conservation South Africa, BotSoc formed a consortium to successfully apply for the IUCN Save our Species Rapid Action grant to catalyse actions out of the National Response plan. BotSoc’s primary role is to support the in situ collections of confiscated plants as well as support CREW who are collecting field data of these imperiled plants.


Watch BotSoc’s Rupert Koopman as he talks to eNCA about the succulent crisis.

Get involved

We have plans in place to help deal with this plant-poaching crisis. But in order to keep these stolen succulent plants alive, we need help. Material, equipment and infrastructure are needed, as well as additional skilled capacity to undertake ecological restoration efforts. Support BotSoc as we respond to this threat.

Crew Programme 


Succulent plant crisis

Ex-situ plant collections

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