Local Health Traditions (LHTs) cannot be revitalised without ensuring the health of the medicinal plant resource base. Given that the funds, human resources and efforts available are limited, it is very much needed to prioritise and assess the threat status of medicinal plants in order to focus the conservation action.
In order to accomplish the prioritisation of medicinal plants within a reasonable time and cost, the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) of Species Survival Commission has developed a rapid assessment methodology called CAMP, the Conservation Assessment and Management Plan.
The objective of CAMP workshops is to provide strategic guidance for application of intensive management and information collection techniques to the threatened plants. They also provide a comprehensive means of testing the applicability of the IUCN criteria to the threatened taxa.
The CAMP workshops are a recent phenomenon on the conservation scenario. The first workshop on flora was held in the island of St. Helena, in the Pacific, in May 1993. The second and the first one in India, was held at Bangalore on medicinal plant species of south India in February 1995. This was jointly organized by Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT) and CBSG India represented by ZOO Outreach Organisation from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. The workshop assessed 36 medicinal plants and assigned threat status as per IUCN red list categories. This was followed by secoCAMP workshop, in February 1996, which assessed 44 medicinal plants of south India and assigned threat status for 41 species. A third medicinal plants CAMP for south India was conducted in January 1997 for 53 more species. The current red list of medicinal plants of southern India enlists 110 taxa with threat status ranging from Lower Risk – near threatened to Extinct.
CAMP workshop is developed specifically to respond to the need for basic information that reflects in the range states. This is an intensive, interactive and unique process that facilitates objective and systematic prioritisation of research and management actions needed for species conservation. CAMP can be initiated by any wildlife agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or specialist groups. Ten to fourty experts like field botanists, foresters, ecologists, taxonomists, wildlife managers, user group representatives, scientists from various academic communities, persons related to industries and cultivators could be participants of a workshop to evaluate the threat status of all the taxa in a broad group. This can be done for a country or geographic region to set conservation action and information gathering priorities. Participants develop the assessments of risks and formulate recommendations for action using a Taxon Data Sheet
that allows recording of detailed information about each taxon under review including data on the status of populations and habitat in the wild as well as recommendations for intensive conservation action. The taxon data sheet is augmented by a spreadsheet that summarises data recorded on the taxon data sheet and provides for rapid review or comparison of taxa.During a CAMP process, the wild and captive statuses for each taxon under consideration are reviewed on a taxon-by-taxon basis. For each taxon, there is an attempt to estimate the total population. It is often very difficult, even agonising, to be numerate because so little quantitative data on population sizes and distribution exists. However, it is often possible to provide order-or-magnitude estimates, like whether the total population is greater or less than the numerical thresholds for the population data used in determining categories of threat. The taxon data sheets include a ‘data quality’ column so that ‘guesstimates’ can be distinguished from population estimates based on systematic documentation. Information on population fragmentation and trends, distribution, as well as habitat changes and environmental stochasticity are also considered. The process might also utilise information compiled by experts on the taxa from published and unpublished sources. For each taxon reviewed, three kinds of assessments and recommendations are made:
the taxon to the IUCN red list category.
- Making recommendations for research and management activities to contribute to the taxon’s conservation. These recommendations aim to integrate recommended research and management actions and known threats.
- Making recommendations for captive programs if they can contribute to the conservation of the taxon. CAMP recommendations for captive breeding programs are made by workshop participants based primarily on status in the wild. CAMP documents will be revised and updated, as new information becomes available or as world situation change. The CAMP processes also will continue both by its application to new groups of taxa and regions and the refinement of the ones already underway.
The process is unique in its ability to prioritise intensive management action for species conservation, providing a framework for intensive management in the wild and in captivity. CAMP documents can be used as guidelines by national and regional wildlife agencies as well as regional captive breeding programs as they develop their own action plans. The long-term impact of the CAMP process on global priority setting has the potential to be profound. Within the near future, conservation managers will have a set of comprehensive documents at their disposal, collaboratively and scientifically developed, which establish priorities for global and regional species management and conservation.