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Kew, the United Kingdom’s Royal Botanic Gardens located in London, recently achieved a milestone in plant conservation.  Kew recently celebrated their acquisition of their 24,200th plant species, a pink wild forest banana from China that is a staple for wild Asian elephants.  garfieldThe Royal Botanic Garden started a project in the year 2000 to collect 10 percent of the world’s wild plant species.  The conservation effort is to secure a genetic seed bank of the world’s wild plant species.  The most recent acquisition by Kew, the Yunnan banana, has come increasingly under threat in the wild, due to its jungle habitation being cleared for commercial agriculture.  Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank’s efforts is to safe guard the world’s plant biodiversity from extinction.  Kew has recently announced that by the year 2020 their goal is to acquire and safe guard 25 percent of the world’s plant species.  According to Kew, between 60,000 and 100,000 species of plants are threatened with extinction, roughly one quarter of the world’s diverse plant life.  Kew’s efforts are the world’s largest conservation project on record.  Achieving their first milestone is truly remarkable.  The time and cost of accumulating all of these plants is quite staggering.   The cost alone per plant is $5000 to acquire and house.  Kew sponsors global efforts to educate and train farmers in areas where plant species are under the greatest threat.  They have targeted areas in West Africa and Asia as the two most plant diverse regions that need the greatest protection.  Plant biodiversity is key to life on this planet.  Losing plants to extinction irrevocably harms all life on this planet.  New pharmaceuticals that could be derived from plants, that we have not yet experimented with, would be lost forever.  Plant biodiversity is one of the cornerstones of our existence.  Losing them would be pure folly.  Congratulations to Kew for achieving this milestone.

John Vlahakis

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