In Kenya, we have almost fifty species of Aloe, including three exceedingly poisonous species. Many people have heard of Aloe vera, the so-called wonder plant, and mistakenly call all aloes Aloe vera.
This has caused not just misunderstandings but has had serious consequences. Applying the wrong Aloe on a wound or eating the wrong Aloe can have fatal consequences.
There are three poisonous Aloe species – Aloe ballyi, Aloe elata and Aloe ruspoliana. These species have leaf sap that gives off a strong ratty odour. Fortunately the first two species are relatively rare and not widespread but it is important to know your aloes before attempting to use them medicinally.
Following a presidential ban on the collection of wild-growing aloes, commercial harvesting of aloe sap has taken its place. There is the danger that due to lack of knowledge, this sap could actually be sourced from poisonous aloes.
It’s true that the leaves of several species of Aloe are used medicinally. And the roots of Aloe volkensii, for example, in combination with other plants, are a significant ingredient for many local brews. But beware! One of our missions in Succulenta East Africa is to raise public awareness that there are dangers out there and that not all aloes have medicinal properties!
Not all Aloes are Aloe Vera!
The plants called Aloe include many different species. Most of them have succulent, spiky leaves and colourful flowers. You can see several Aloes on the grounds of the National Museums of Kenya. There is a very famous Aloe called Aloe vera. It does not grow wild in Kenya, but it is planted and used medicinally. The Aloes that we see in the countryside and on safari are not Aloe vera. They belong to different species of Aloe. Sue Allan tells you more about them …
The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and a US university are working together to develop technology that will help track amphibians with a view to protecting them. The project targets amphibian species (frogs, toads, newts and salamanders) listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered.
Researchers have expressed concern over the rapid decline of frog population in Kenya and Africa in general, citing disease and destruction of natural habitats have been cited as major threats. The situation has been further compounded by lack of information on the species. Data from IUCN shows 1,800 species of amphibians across the world face extinction.
Human activity such as logging and agricultural expansion, climate change and alien species invasion have been blamed for the decline of frog population in Kenya. Poor waste management leading to pollution of water bodies, home to amphibians, has also been contributed to this population.
The first major goal of the project will be to collate information about amphibians in Kenya. This information will be built from existing records. A digital inventory will then be created and updated from time to time.
Using cutting-edge technology to detect the presence of species in the environment, researchers hope to come up with a better documentation method that will enhance the protection of amphibians that live in the soil, water and any other habitats.