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Development of a Compendium of Local, Wild-Harvested Species Used in the Informal Economy Trade, Cape Town, South Africa

L. M. Petersen, University of Queensland, Australia; Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, South Africa
E. J. Moll, Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
R. Collins, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia
Marc T. Hockings, Department of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, University of Queensland, Australia


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Wild harvesting has taken place over millennia in Africa. However urbanization and cash economies have effectively altered harvesting from being cultural, traditional, and subsistence activities that are part of a rural norm, to being a subculture of commonly illicit activities located primarily within the urban, cash-based, informal economy. This paper focuses on Cape Town, South Africa where high levels of poverty and extensive population growth have led to a rapidly growing informal industry based on the cultural, subsistence, and entrepreneurial harvesting and consumption of products obtained from the local natural environment.

Through a process of literature reviews, database analysis, and key informant interviews, a compendium of harvested species was developed, illustrating the breadth of illicit harvesting of products from nature reserves, public open space, and other commonage within the City. The compendium records 448 locally occurring species (198 animals and 250 plants) that are extracted for medicinal, energy, ornamental, sustenance, nursery, and other uses. The sustainability of harvesting is questionable; nearly 70% of all harvested flora and 100% of all collected fauna are either killed or reproductively harmed through the harvesting processes. Furthermore, for the 183 indigenous flora species currently recorded on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, 28% (51) hold assessments ranging from Declining through to Critically Endangered. With respect to the more poorly assessed fauna (46 spp.), approximately 24% (11) have Declining or Threatened status.

Key words

biodiversity; Cape Town, South Africa; cash-based economy; compendium; conservation; illicit harvesting; informal economy; urbanization; wild harvesting; wild harvest trade

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087