Conservation of Prunus africana, an over-exploited African medicinal tree
Prunus Africana is a geographically widespread tree growing in the highland forest in mainland Africa and outlying islands
Prunus Africana (Hook. f.) Kalkman (Rosaceae) is a geographically widespread tree growing in the highland forest in mainland Africa (Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe) and outlying islands (Bioko, Grand Comore, Madagascar, Sao Tomé) (Kalkman 1965). The only species markdown native to Africa, it is a large tree that can grow to more than 40 m in height and a diameter of 1 m. The medicinal property of P. Africana bark extract for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia has led to an annual international trade worth approximately US$220 million in the final pharmaceutical product (Cunningham et al. 1997). To supply this demand, approximately 4,000 tonnes of bark is presently collected annually by the felling of trees from natural stands, leading to concerns on the long term sustainability of harvesting and the conservation of the species. The natural resource base is most exploited and under the greatest threat in Cameroon (Cunningham and Mbenkum 1993) and Madagascar (Walter and Rakotonirina 1995). Exploitation is also high, although currently less intensive, in Kenya (Cunningham et al. 1997) and on the island of Bioko (Equatorial Guinea) (Sunderland and Tako 1999). Accurate exploitation figures for other countries are not available, but are considered to be comparatively low (Cunningham et al. 1997). Conservation needs are therefore highest in Cameroon and Madagascar, with less urgent needs in Equatorial Guinea and Kenya.As a result of over-exploitation, trade in P. Africana products is regulated under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES). Prunus Africana is listed in the Tree Conservation Database of the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC, 1999). In addition, the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources lists P. Africana as one of 18 top priority species for action in Africa (FAO 1997).
FAO Forest Genetic Resources (2000) 28 27-33