Seychelles: The cocoa de mer seed, a rare palm endemic to islands of Seychelles is fighting for survival. Shrouded in folklore and legends, the palm is found growing naturally on only two of Seychelles’ 115 islands – Praslin, the second largest island in the country after Mahe, and nearby Curieuse.
With only about 8,000 mature trees in existence today, the plant is named as endangered on endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.
The coco de mer palm is dioecious – it has separate male and female plants that can take up to 50 years to reach sexual maturity, depending on environmental conditions – and its extremely slow growth rate has contributed to its endangered status. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was also a thriving black market for the shell, which led to poaching in protected areas. Other threats include forest fires, erratic rainfall because of climate breakdown, and pests and disease.
Now conservationists have turned to the islanders to help secure the palm’s future. Under a scheme launched last summer, residents were invited to apply for permission to plant up to five coco de mer seeds each on their property.