The Wild Cycad Conservancy

Protecting the world’s most threatened plant species from extinction in South Africa


Gene bank

A gene bank is a place where genetic diversity is stored for the future. 

WCC’s objective to develop assurance colonies for species with a high risk of extinction was boosted, in 2023, by the acquisition of a well-documented collection with accessions of some of the most threatened Encephalartos species. Many of these species are poorly represented in current ex situ gene banks.

COmplementing conservation initiatives

The sole purpose of the WCC assurance colony is to complement other ex situ conservation initiatives and preserve genetic material from these species for possible re-introduction projects. The gene bank is managed and maintained according to a master plan, to ensure the best possible results will be obtained from this investment.

The need for such assurance colonies is driven by the high risk of extinction. Southern Africa has been a global centre for cycad extinctions over the past 100 years and South Africa has four species assessed as Extinct in the Wild, with an additional three species where fewer than 5 plants remain in the wild.

Ex situ assurance colonies represent the only way to prevent total extinction for many species and they are also critical for any recovery efforts.

Although some species are adequately represented in public botanic gardens, there are many cases where public collections are insufficient to capture representative genetic diversity.

In these cases, private collections become the only source of genetic material.

However, most private collections are not adequately accessioned, nor are they managed to maintain genetic diversity or contribute to conservation and recovery programmes.


We are focussing on the critically endangered species which need immediate action, including:

E. heenanii

E. inopinus

E. hirsutus

E. leavifolius

E. middelburgensis

E. dolomiticus

E. brevifoliolatus

E. horridus


The Wild Cycad Conservancy (or WCC) takes a three-pronged approach to cycad conservation.