South Africa’s cycads, most of which are found nowhere else in the world, are threatened, despite laws regulation the trade in them. Unlike other endangered species such as rhinos, the plight of the cycad has drawn relatively little attention.
To prevent theft, plants have been fitted with microchips but poachers have been using X-ray scanners to find them and hack them out. Rare cycads are now sprayed with microdot paint that leaves invisible, individualised markers of a plant’s provenance. Researchers from EDA and SAC at Kent are testing radio frequency identification tags on cycads that could relay alerts and GPS co-ordinates.