Twice in the history of the species (first identified in 1934), Karomia gigas was considered extinct. Labeled as Critically Endangered by a world authority on the natural world, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, this tree’s greatest threat is considered a resource and valued for its beautiful reddish color, as well than habitat loss.
“The conservation from a bigger picture is that if people are pushed for basic survival, they are going to destroy the environment to survive – that’s the nature of things,” Wyatt says. “Conservation is overtaken by the economy, and wood is a very important resource. These trees are continually under threat.
As part of their livelihood and through a grant project under Botanic Gardens Conservation International, local farmers in small Tanzanian villages near trees in southern Africa are paid to monitor the species in the wild, which is not an easy task. Wyatt reports that, during a field trip, he and his team drove most of a day in the forest and then had to walk over 6 miles before reaching the tree clusters. Conservation efforts of the botanical garden in the wild are continued in partnership with the Tanzanian Forest Service, primarily, and Botanic Gardens Conservation International to ensure preservation to the extent possible.
“Our conservation of these trees is not isolated from what we are doing on the other side of the world,” says Wyatt. “We act as a support for [our] partners in Tanzania, to understand how to grow the species, carry out conservation [and] provide information on propagation and cultivation.