Origins - Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.
Genus: Hoodia Sweet ex Decne.
Scientific synonyms: Gonostemon Haw.; Trichocaulon N.E.Br.
Common names: Angola: Hoodia, goa.-I, khoba.b, khowa.b,
goai-I, khoba, khoba.b|s, khobab, khowab, goab, otjinove, kharab
Africa: Ghaap, Bitter Ghaap
Trade names and pharmaceutical names: P57 (active ingredient)
Distribution - Hoodia occur in summer rainfall areas in Angola,
Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, as well as winter rainfall areas
in Namibia (MET 2002). All taxa except one are found west of 26°
longitude from 33° degrees south to as far north as Angola. The
only exception is H. currorii subsp. lugardii, which occurs in Botswana
and the Limpopo province of South Africa. The centres of diversity
are in Namibia and South Africa.
Habitat availability - Species of the genus occur in a wide variety
of arid habitats from coastal to mountainous, but typically on arid
gravel or shale plains and slopes and ridges. The precise habitat
requirements for Hoodia are not known, but habitat availability
is not expected to be a limiting factor.
Population status - Several species occur in very large populations
over large areas (several more than 10,000 km2 ). This includes
H. gordonii, which is the species currently most sought after for
trade in weight reduction products. There are, however, other closely
related species that are less prolific, occurring in isolated patches
with an overall low density, and a relatively small distribution
range (less than 1,000 km2). A relatively common feature is that
most species have patchy distributions.
Population trends - Little is known about population trends at population
level, although declines in several sites are known as the result
of mining, infrastructure development and agriculture. For example,
the population of Hoodia pilifera subsp. pillansii, which is on
the Red Data list, is severely fragmented with no population thought
to contain more than 250 individuals (Archer and Victor, 2003).
Several localities of H. currorii subsp. lugardi in Botswana have
been lost to the combined effects of diamond mining and attack by
a snout beetle (Setshogo and Hargreaves 2002). There are also reports
of intensive bioprospecting for commercial exploitation in Botswana
(Setshogo and Hargreaves 2002), as well as reports of collecting
or solicitation of collecting in Namibia, and South Africa.
Geographic trends - There are reports that Hoodia species have disappeared
from parts of their range due to mining activities, agriculture
Role of the species in its ecosystem - Hoodias are part of the succulent
flora in southern Africa, and are a minor source of food and moisture
to a range of wildlife species in arid ecosystems. Hoodia species
(analogous to stemmed cacti and euphorbias) are perennial, slow
growing, spiny, and form multiple aboveground stem clusters, which
provide shelter or breeding sites for small animals.
Threats - All Hoodias have been subject to collecting by succulent
collectors, and several taxa have been impacted by habitat disturbance
(e.g. road construction, mining and overgrazing). Harvesting for
medicinal properties has occurred in the past as part of traditional
practices, but harvesting for commercial purposes is becoming a
large potential threat. Since the isolation of the active ingredient
in H. gordonii and the extensive press coverage that projected huge
financial benefits to be derived from exploiting this species, there
has been an increasing interest in the harvest of Hoodia spp. Although
H. gordonii is abundant and widespread, collectors of plant material
cannot always tell the different species apart, and collecting from
the wild is likely to impact a number of Hoodia species. Harvesting
requires cutting off the above ground parts of the plant and it
is relatively easy to decimate small populations.
National utilization - Hoodia spp. are widely used traditionally
by the San people as an appetite suppressant, thirst quencher and
as a cure for severe abdominal cramps, haemorrhoids, tuberculosis,
indigestion, hypertension and diabetes. Various uses have been recorded
among Anikhwe (northern Botswana), Heiom (northern Namibia), Khomani
(north western South Africa), and the Xun and Khwe (Khoe) (originally
from Angola) communities. Less is known about the use of these plants
by other indigenous people, but some records show limited use of
plant parts as food items, albeit not as preferred food items. Hoodias
are known to be used for cultural purposes in some areas (Hargreaves
and Turner, 2002). Although relatively difficult to cultivate, Hoodias
are attractive plants and are used for horticultural purposes. The
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa
isolated an active compound (P57) for appetite suppression from
H. gordonii. The CSIR licensed the rights for further development
of P57 and the setting up of a sustainable production system to
Phytopharm in the UK. Phytopharm in turn sub-licensed the rights
to Pfizer for the development and global commercialisation, but
Pfizer has recently returned the clinical developmental rights.
In terms of a benefit sharing agreement with the CSIR, all the San
communities in the range States will benefit from the development
Legal international trade:
Harvesting for export has been permitted in some instances. This
requires a permit and the area where harvesting is taking place
is inspected by officers from the Agricultural Resources Board.
One exporter reported exporting 2500kg/month.
Exports have thus far been limited to herbarium collections. Manufactured
pharmaceutical preparations for dieting and appetite suppression
have appeared in the Namibian market, presumably as plant
extracts from South African origin. Considerable potential exists
for promoting sustainable legal trade in co-operation with responsible
pharmaceutical companies. Negotiations are already under way in
this regard, and Namibia intends to establish a controlled harvesting
system in co-operation with specific manufacturing companies that
make commitments to support conservation and use only material obtained
through controlled harvesting or other forms of production.
Africa: In trying to expand the development of Hoodia products,
a limited amount of wild collected material was supplied to developing
companies (permits issued by Northern Cape Nature Conservation and
Western Cape Nature Conservation). There is a limited amount of
trade in cultivated material. Permits have been issued to projects
linked to the CSIR since 1998 (80 plants in 1998, 200 plants in
2000, 1350kg from cultivated sources in 2001, and 1900kg from cultivated
sources in 2002).
Illegal trade - The extent of illegal trade is unknown. Illegal
exports have been reported from Botswana for the extraction of the
active ingredient in manufacturing appetite suppressants by Biomed
(Anonymous, 2003, Hargreaves and Turner, 2002). Namibia has experienced
attempts at illegal trade (solicitation by a North American
company to individuals to supply material after being informed
that exports will not be authorized). There is also illegal collecting
in South Africa. A North American company claims to be importing
1,200 to 2,800 kg of dried Hoodia plants per week, but the
source of this material is not known and it is assumed to be illegal.
Limited illegal collection by succulent enthusiasts also occurs
throughout the region.
Actual or potential trade impacts - The potential impact of illegal
trade is considered to be very high because of the threat of over-exploitation
after the patenting of compound P57 by the CSIR, in South Africa.
Hoodia products are widely advertised on websites and all the material
used to manufacture these products is thought to be derived from
wild-harvested plants. There are at least ten companies offering
Hoodia products for sale on their websites. Very high actual and
potential impacts of trade can be expected, since some pharmaceutical
companies require wild material for extraction of the active compound.
Captive breeding or artificial propagation for commercial purposes.
Cultivation trials have been set up in South Africa and Namibia.
Pfizer is also reported to have cloned Hoodia from cell cultures
and there are also reports of cultivation in Chile (Hargreaves and
Turner, 2002). The plantings in South Africa and Namibia have not
yet reached a stage where harvesting is possible, so all material
currently in trade is probably from wild sources.
Conservation and management
Harvesting is controlled by the Agricultural Resources Conservation
Act [CAP. 35:06]. Regulations for harvesting of veld products were
published on 26 March 2004.
All Hoodia species are protected species, requiring prior authorization
for harvesting and trade.
Africa: Hoodia species are protected species in the Northern Cape
(Environmental Conservation Ordinance No.19 of 1974). No collecting
is allowed without a permit. Similarly, a permit is required for
any cultivation, transport or export from the province. Similar
regulations are applied in the Western Cape and Free State provinces.
Population monitoring - In Botswana Hoodia currori has so far not
been commercially exploited to avoid over-exploitation. Hoodia currori
grows in a belt extending for 600 km east to west along the Limpopo
River through Namibia. It has been included in the Southern African
Plant Red Data List and was presented to the Agricultural Resources
Board to be covered by the legislation currently protecting the
grapple plant (Lloyd, 2003). Namibia is in the process of expanding
monitoring of these species as part of a long-term plant conservation
programme in Southern Namibia, i.e. establishing reference sites.
Funding is, however, a major constraint.
Habitat conservation - In Namibia, the status of all species has
been assessed since 2001 (Craven & Loots 2002, Loots in press).
gordonii is found in the areas of the central Kalahari and Makgadikgadi
national parks, (Lloyd, 2003), Tanqua Karoo National Park (Strauss
et al, 2003) and the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (Peace
Park Foundation, 2003) in South Africa. It, and other species, is
also present in Namib Naukluft Park, (World Conservation Monitoring
Centre, 2000), Skeleton Coast Park, and a new national park in southern
Namibia (the former Sperrgebiet), as well as in several conservancies.
Management measures - In Namibia, harvesting is currently not authorized.
Habitat protection is achieved through the protected area network
and the mitigation of habitat disturbance through environmental
impact assessment procedures and environmental contracts.
International trade - Hoodias offer considerable economic potential
to range States, and in particular also to indigenous people such
as the San who first discovered the pharmaceutical value of these
species. Inclusion of this genus in Appendix II is needed to establish
a standardized international trading framework and monitoring regime.
The proponents intend to promote local processing, and the major
form of exports is likely to be in the form of extracts, partially
processed or finished pharmaceutical products. Such products present
complications for enforcement, and have traditionally been exempted
for medicinal plant species included in Appendix II. It is therefore
proposed to only exempt such products bearing a label indicating
that the specific manufacturer/distributor/agent responsible
for marketing such product has established an agreement with the
relevant Management Authority, as specified in the proposal (Section
A). All other specimens and raw material would remain subject to
the requirements of trade under Article IV.
4.3.2 Domestic measures - In Botswana, Hoodia spp are protected
by the Agricultural Resources Conservation Act, in which Hoodia
is listed as a veld product.
Namibia, all Hoodia species are protected and prior authorization
is required for harvesting or trade. No wild harvesting has yet
been authorized until a status review has been completed.
South Africa, Hoodia species are protected species in the Northern
Cape (Environmental Conservation Ordinance No.19 of 1974). No collecting
is allowed without a permit. Similarly, a permit is required for
any cultivation, transport or export from the province. The same
regulations are applied in the Western Cape and Free State provinces.
Information on similar species - Hoodia species may be confused
with one another and have also been confused with some cacti species,
like Trichocerus spachianus (a declared noxious weed in South Africa)
2003. People warned against exporting medicinal plant. Available
11 September 2003
R.H and Victor, J. E. 2003. Hoodia pilfera subsp. pillansii. Curtis’s
Botanical Magazine 20 (4): 219-224.
Craven, P. and Loots, S. 2002. Namibia. In: J.S. Golding (ed.)
Southern African Plant Red Data Lists.
African Botanical Diversity Network Report. No. 14: 61-92. SABONET,
B. J and Turner, Q. 2002. Uses and misuses of Hoodia. Asklepios
S. 2003. Plant poachers get noxious weed instead of rare African
species! IUCN, Gland. Available online:
Loots, S. In press. A red Data Book of Namibian Plants. Southern
African Botanical Diversity Network Report. SABONET, Pretoria.
2002. Distribution, species composition and uses of Hoodia. Directorate
of Scientific Services, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibia
Parks Foundation. 2003. Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation
Park. Available online:
M.P. and Hargreaves, B. 2002. Botswana. In: J. Golding (ed) Southern
African Plant Red
Lists. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 14,
C, Spottiswoode, C and Cohen, C. 2003. Tanqua Karoo National Park.
Strategic management plan: Also available online
J. E, Bredenkamp, C. L, Venter, H. J. T, Bruyns, P. V and Nicholas,
A. 2000. Apocynaceae. In O. A. Leistner (ed.), Seed plants
of southern Africa: families and genera. Strelitzia 10:71-98.
Conservation Monitoring Centre. 2000. Namib-Naukluft Park Information.