Prickly pear cactus on the verge of extinction

Herbert Horuno Zengeya.

SIMBARASHE MTEMBO
NEWS EDITOR

MASVINGO – The prickly pear cactus, a plant revered by many communities in Zimbabwe for its medicinal properties is fast disappearing; it is on the road to extinction, plant experts have confirmed to The Mirror.
Experts have called for the urgent categorization of the cactus (Dhorofiya in Shona), a thick leaved prickly plant as an endangered species in order to save it.
Masvingo District Forestry Extension Officer, Edwin Machokoto said that the cactus is on the verge of extinction because of two main issues; an attack by an insect called cochineal bug and the Government’s failure to enlist it as an endangered species.
Human activities have as a result encroached into the habitats of the plant.
One member of the public who persistently complained against the disappearance of the cactus is prominent educationist and former head of Hellen McGhie Primary School, Herbert Horuno Zengeya. He said that it was astounding that Zimbabweans could allow such an important plant to face extinction.
“We have always since we were kids lived with this plant in the villages and it has many properties that are good to mankind. It bears fruits and it has medicinal value and I am shocked that one can barely find the prickly cactus in the forests. It is such a lovely plant and you would find it at homesteads especially if the home is built in a rocky place.
“I plead with Government to intervene and save this valuable plant,” said Zengeya.
In the environs of Masvingo City the cactus was ubiquitous along the river banks of Mutirikwi River right up to the lake, some 25 kilometers away. Now all there is, is a grimly reminder in the form of dry and decaying cact.

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