Friday, 7 January 2011

Pharaonic palm at risk of extinction

Environmentalists have called for more efforts to protect the argun palm, a rare desert tree prized by the ancient Egyptians that is on the verge of extinction.

Less than 400 argun palms (Medemia argun) are known to exist in remote desert regions of Egypt and Sudan. Environmentalists say urgent action is needed to protect the enigmatic fan palm, which is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.

"These palms may be the remnants of vegetation that covered the Sahara over 10,000 years ago when the area was much wetter than it is today," says Haitham Ibrahim, an ecologist at the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), the executive arm of Egypt’s environment ministry. "They are now critically in danger of extinction … (as a result of) climate change and human activity."

Archaeologists first learnt of the argun palm from ancient Egyptian texts, and its dried fruits were frequently found among the gold and offerings recovered from pharaonic tombs.

Read more: Inter Press Service

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