An eco-tourism and conservation perspective of endangered Proteaceae of the Cape Floral Kingdom on the Agulhas Plain
The growing global perspective on conservation in combination with the rapid changes in the environment due to ever increasing human demands has placed more emphasis on the plight of threatened and endangered Proteaceae on the Agulhas Plain. Large parts of the Agulhas Plain contribute to the commercial cut flower export industry. The population numbers of Leucadendron elimense subsp. elimense, L. laxum, L. platyspermum and L. stelligerum (PROTEACEAE) have been drastically reduced as many species are illegally harvested. The continued destruction of natural habitats has made environmentalists and Protea flower producers aware of the need for developing future conservation strategies. An increase in ecotourism on the Agulhas Plain is important in view of its role in extended conservation and job creation. The Agulhas Plain is a region where conservation, ecotourism and agriculture could work together to maintain a balance of protection, enjoyment and commercial gain from the habitat. Potential developments of ecotourism on the Agulhas Plain are hindered through poor agricultural practices and a lack of conservation of the natural habitat. Landowners and cut flower producers have to stay abreast of global changes if they are to be responsible for the protection of the environment. In this respect the usage of land is linked to skills, attitudes, knowledge and an understanding of the environment. There is a lack of guidance and available information in the conservation of the Agulhas Plain while the ecotourism potential of the Cape Floral Kingdom remains undeveloped. The objectives of the study are: a) to collect and survey scientific data on current practices of landowners, flower producers and exporters to determine the probable causes of destruction of Red Data species and their influences on ecotourism development on the Agulhas Plain. This study aims to make recommendations on the propagation and the conservation of threatened species and the ecotourism potential on the Agulhas Plain; b) to test the rooting ability of L. laxum using four liquid hormone concentrations of IBA or IAA and four different rooting mediums. Differences in rooting in an environmentally controlled greenhouse environment with bottom heat and a shaded tunnel is also tested. The study aims to develop new propagation techniques to increase successful and economical propagation of the species, to solve problematic and difficult propagation techniques and to relieve the threatened status of species. The study used a self-administered survey questionnaire distributed amongst growers, farmers and exporters to determine the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes in the harvesting, propagation, conservation and ecotourism development of Red Data species on the Agulhas Plain.