Waterlily saved from extinction

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Thermal Lilly (Kew)
Image caption,
The waterlilly was native to the hot springs of Rwanda

A scientist based at the UK's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has prevented the world's smallest waterlily from becoming extinct.

Carlos Magdalena now plans to repopulate the plant in its native home in the hot springs of Rwanda.

The world's biggest species of waterlily can have pads that grow to around 3m (10ft).

By contrast the thermal lily is just a centimetre wide - with tiny satin white flowers with a butter yellow centre.

Two years ago, this delicate bloom went extinct in the wild due to over-exploitation of its habitat.

Luckily its seeds were kept in storage - and were used by Carlos Magdalena to regrow the plant at Kew Gardens - just outside London.

It took him months to find the ideal conditions for growth. He hopes now that the Thermal Lily will flourish once again in the hot springs of Rwanda.

"I feel really feel happy and relieved when I managed to successfully grow the plant. I realised then that it wasn't going to disappear forever," he told BBC News.

Although scientists are working hard to bring many endangered plants back from the brink of extinction, they're fighting what is currently a losing battle.

A recent study showed that world governments won't meet the internationally-agreed target of significantly curbing the loss of species by this year.

Governments are to meet to set new targets at the UN's convention on biological diversity in Japan in October. How then can they expect to succeed where the previous convention on biodiversity failed?

Novel strategies

According to James Beattie, another horticulturist at Kew, there's now a more holistic approach to preserving habitats that has been shown to work.

"In the past, efforts were very much focused on species conservation," he said.

"Now it's being attached to education and working with local partners in these programmes so you can get the message across that these plants are important and the only reason they are disappearing is because of man's activities.

"If you can alter that behaviour then you can bring these plants back quite successfully."

The researchers at Kew say that it's very important to maintain biodiversity.

"Without it, we wouldn't have the products we have today," according to Mr Beattie.

"If you lose that diversity, you risk losing the chances we have of surviving on this planet as things like climate change comes into play".

Professor Steve Hopper, director of Kew Gardens, is optimistic that it is possible to reverse the trend.

"We can turn this corner. We have the capability to do it. There's no reason why another species of plant should go extinct if we apply just a bit of resource and a new attitude towards caring for the natural world."

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