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From Paper to Practice – Botanic Gardens and the Convention on Biological Diversity

Volume 2 Number 1 - April 2005

BGCI Members & Supporters



Résumé en Français

Resumen en Españo

Botanic Gardens Education: A Strategic Vehicle for the Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity

The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, emphasised the inextricable link between the environment and development, and focused on forging international agreements that promote development while respecting the interests of all human communities and protecting the integrity of the global environment. Key outcomes of the Conference included three international environmental agreements that define specific government commitments to biodiversity, climate change, and desertification. These agreements, while seemingly technical in nature and vast in scope, offer important guidance for our work as botanic garden educators.

One of these agreements, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), has since been ratified by 188 countries. The CBD is guided by the ecosystem approach and has three key objectives: the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources. Implementation of the CBD is governed by the Conference of Parties (COP), which defines priority actions and provides guidance to participating nations. To date, the CBD has developed priority work programmes based on broad themes, including Forest Biodiversity; Biodiversity of Inland Waters; Marine and Coastal Biodiversity; Agricultural Biodiversity; Mountain Biodiversity and Protected Areas. A thematic programme focusing on Islands is also being developed. In addition, cross-cutting programmes address issues such as Biosafety (which has resulted in the negotiation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety); Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing; Traditional Knowledge, Innovation and Practices (Article 8j); Education and Public Awareness; Sustainable Tourism; the Global Taxonomy Initiative; Invasive Alien Species; and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC).

Gardens are well placed to lead the call for national implementation of the GSPC and relevant CBD work programmes. Thus, new challenges and responsibilities for botanic garden educators arise out of these agreements:

  • How do botanic gardens develop locally relevant programmes that respond to the challenge of poverty alleviation and sustainable development?
  • How do we promote the role of indigenous knowledge and technologies in scientific research and education?
  • How do botanic gardens promote a holistic approach to plant conservation, including community-based initiatives to enhance sustainable use?
  • How do our programmes respond to the emerging call to balance the focus on ecosystem and species conservation?
  • How do we build bridges between pure sciences and user needs and economic development?
  • How do botanic gardens contribute to other international targets such as those articulated by the Millenium Development Goals; the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the 2010 Biodiversity Goal?

Achieving the targets of the GSPC requires a candid review of these questions, amongst others, and the authors in this issue of Roots explore some of these ideas through case studies and reflections on practice.

The Third Principle of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992) states that the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet the development and environment needs of both present and future generations. We must work to innovatively promote these goals, in response to the local needs and aspirations of the communities where our gardens are located, and within the context of the issues highlighted above so as to effectively safeguard the earth’s biodiversity for generations to come.

About the Contributor

Stella Simiyu is BGCI’s Global Strategy for Plant Conservation Officer, IUCN Eastern Africa Regional Office, PO Box 68200, Nairobi, Kenya.  Email:

Details of the convention can be found at

Article 7 – Identification and Monitoring

Medicinal plants and the pre-Hispanic Mexican steam bath

Botanic garden educators and researchers pursuing ethnobotanical and floristic studies, have a unique opportunity to strengthen local communities and meet the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity by creating programmes that explore the cultural uses of plants.  At the Botanical Garden of the Institute of Biology of the Autonomous National University of Mexico, a three-phase program is underway in the region of Ozumba, State of Mexico, to teach local community members about the use of medicinal plants in traditional ritual and healing practices. 

On average, 80 plant species with medicinal properties are sold in Ozumba and shipped to Mexico City’s Mercado Sonora, Mexico’s largest market of plant-based remedies.  In rural central Mexico, a pre-Hispanic steam bath called ’temazcal’ uses some of these herbs for therapeutic and ritual purposes.  Water is infused with medicinal plants and poured over heated stones to create steam.  This practice has been abandoned in urban areas due to increasingly busy lifestyles and lack of space.  However, with the rise of ecotourism programmes that incorporate traditional cultural practices, the 'temazcal' is attracting the interest of native communities and undergoing a revival.

In 2004 as part of the first phase of this new education programme, the Botanical Garden offered three two-day workshops on 'temazcal' medicinal plants in association with Centro Botánico Ameyali, a regional NGO dedicated to the promotion of medicinal plants.

On the first day of the workshop, different styles of Mexican 'temazcales' were reviewed with respect to the type of construction and the medicinal plants employed.  For each plant species, the following features were highlighted: taxonomy; ethnobotany and collecting and processing the plants.  Students made observations of living plants in the Botanical Garden’s  medicinal plants section.  They also made a set of herbarium specimens from the plants and noted important characteristics to aid in their identification.  All of the materials and information were incorporated into a manual so that more material could be added and so that the manual could be used as reference guide in the future.

During day two, participants travelled to the partner site, the Centro Botánico Ameyali, in the Ozumba region for a first-hand introduction to two styles of sweat baths.  They participated in the ritual cleansing using local herbs under the guidance of expert "temazcaleros,” which means “guide” or “healer.”

The participants included medical doctors; psychologists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, housewives, retired teachers, biologists, engineers, veterinarians, broadcasters, dancers and accountants, as well as novice “temazcaleros.”  In follow-up questionnaires to each workshop, participants responded that they took the workshop in order to increase their botanical knowledge, to explore their cultural heritage and to enhance personal spiritual well-being.

The second phase of the education programme will begin this year and will target local farmers and plant collectors.  This phase will include a similarly structured workshop focusing on taxonomic and ethnobotanical aspects of the cultivated 'temazcal' plants in the region.  The third phase of the programme will target teachers and students at local schools in order to promote biological and cultural conservation in the region.

The three main objectives of the CBD are conserving biological diversity, using biological resources sustainably and sharing the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources fairly and equitably.  This botanic garden education programme works to meet these objectives by generating local interest in traditional uses of plants and their conservation.

Abouth the Contributor 

Edelmira Linares (Head of Education), Elia Herrera (Biologist), Teodolinda Balcázar (Biologist), Education and Public Information Department, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, A.P. 70-614, C.P. 045010, Coyoacan Mexico D.F.  Email:

Article 8 In-Situ Conservation

Interpreting our natural heritage

Natural heritage sites, or nature reserves, such as National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries play a major role in conserving representative ecosystems of countries.  Since they are visited by a large number of people, they also have great potential in promoting public awareness on biodiversity, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, and thus meeting conservation goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Nature interpretation is one of the many methods used to reach these goals. Interpretation has the potential to educate visitors about natural resources, the relationship between humans and natural resources, and the need for conservation and park management policies. In turn, this increased understanding may generate visitor support for the conservation of the park’s resources.

Since its inception in 1984, The Centre for Environment Education (CEE) in Ahmedabad, India, has been working to increase the environmental and educational value of India’s natural and cultural heritage sites, including protected areas, zoos, botanical gardens, natural history museums and other nature appreciation areas. The following case study from CEE serves as an example of the importance of interpretive programmes in in situ conservation.

The Kanha National Park Interpretation Programme

The Central Indian Highlands boast some of India’s least disturbed forests, of which Kanha National Park in its pristine beauty is a wonderful example. The alarm call of a sambar deer filling the valley, the setting of the sun and the coming alive of the mighty tiger on its prowl can all be experienced in the wilderness of Kanha. The Park is home to innumerable creatures big and small and has a rich plant diversity. Kanha was also declared a tiger reserve in 1973 under the Indian government’s Project Tiger .

So what can be done to help visitors experience the excitement of the Park, understand and contextualise what they see, and go back with a deepened sense of appreciation and concern for the forests and its inhabitants?

With the professional support of the U.S. National Park Service (USNPS), CEE began India’s first interpretive programme in 1984 with the design and development of the Kanha National Park Interpretation Programme.

To develop the programme components, a message-media matrix was developed to determine the most effective and appropriate media for different messages and themes, constantly keeping in mind the diverse visitors that come to the National Park. Visitor profile surveys were also conducted.

The resulting interpretive programme plan included the following indoor and outdoor components:

  • nature interpretation centres to orient and enhance visitor experiences
  • informative directional signage
  • wayside exhibits at significant locations interpreting interesting, ecological interrelationships and fascinating aspects of nature
  • a variety of publications that give an overview of Kanha’s landscape, weather, fauna and interesting wildlife.

A significant feature of the Kanha interpretive programme was the landmark decision that the entire programme would be run as a co-operative formed by staff and locals/tribals, who were moved out of the core area to facilitate the formation of the Park.  They, along with other low-income groups, serve the park as elephant mahouts, jeep drivers and guides.

The Kanha programme was installed in 1991 and has won appreciation from visitors and professionals alike. In 2003, CEE and the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department began a project to update and add to the existing interpretive facilities and programme.

Orientation Centre

The Orientation Centre is located at one of the entry points to the Park. Existing guest rooms were converted into the Orientation Centre, and care was taken to see that the building blends well with the natural environment. The main aim of the Orientation Centre is to draw visitors’ attention to the different forms in nature, and to show how intimately form is related to function. Subjects include horns and antlers; nails, claws and paws; and teeth and jaws. There are also exhibits focusing on mimicry and camouflage.  Another theme in the Orientation Centre is “Animal Kills in the Wild.” A participatory exhibit depicts a kill scene, and visitors use clues to figure out which animal has been killed, who killed it, when and where.

Visitor Interpretation Centre

Also located within the Park, the Visitor Interpretation Centre introduces the Park’s geography, flora and fauna. Interactive and participatory media provide detailed information about the Park, ecological concepts and conservation issues.

A great deal of research has taken place at Kanha, and many exhibits in the Visitor Interpretation Centre are dedicated to those individuals who have contributed to our understanding of the Indian wild. The aim has been to demystify and make this research interesting. For instance, in the exhibit “Census of the Wild,” the visitor tries to match pugmarks of a tiger only to realise that just like our finger prints, no two pugmarks are the same.   The Centre also focuses on jungle sounds and animal calls in the Park. With the push of a button, the ‘Sound of the Season’ exhibit plays forest sounds visitors are likely to hear. Conservation messages are also addressed, and a dioramic display with sound and a large mural illustrates how the tiger was saved from the brink of extinction.


Within the Park, signs provide on-site interpretation of fascinating aspects in nature and the ecological interrelationships that visitors will encounter as they drive through the Park. For instance, visitors will likely see termite mounds whilst driving through the Park. An interpretive sign shows how termites turn decaying vegetation into soil and how the sloth bear keeps the termite population in check by feeding on them.   Interpretive signs also convey conservation messages.


A variety of publications, for diverse audiences, have been developed for Park visitors. These are published in both English and the local language.  Park folders; brochures, handbooks, pocket cards, roadside guides, posters and chronicles, with interesting and exciting information, have been designed and developed for all visitor types.  A sales counter displays the Park’s publications, as well as souvenirs, and a site map carved out of wood shows all the important features of the Park.

As India’s first interpretive programme, the Kanha Programme not only sets standards; but also provides valuable insights and lessons for future interpretive programmes. It is an excellent example of how education can help meet in situ conservation goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

About the Contributor

Meena Nareshwar, Programme Officer & Meena Raghunathan, Programme Coordinator, CEE, Thaltej Tekra 380 054, Ahmedabad, India, email:,

Article 9 – Ex-situ Conservation

Millennium Seed Bank Project, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Wakehurst Place - Introducing ex situ conservation through environmental education

In August 2000, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew opened the doors of the Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSBP) at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex, UK. This represented an opportunity to bring visitors into the centre of an internationally significant ex situ conservation project, and to demonstrate the importance of ex situ conservation within the Convention on Biological Diversity.  At the project, huge windows offer visitors unobstructed views of seed processing for banking and research into seed storage and viability. Students who visit can see young men and women scientists in action as role models and may be inspired to pursue careers in plant conservation.

For schools, we begin by introducing ‘discovery boxes.’  The goal is to teach children about the importance of plants.  Young children explore boxes containing artifacts that link plants to their own experience. One box contains sniff pots of smelly seeds for children to try and identify the smell. The answers include perfume, ice cream, medicine and food.  We also use an activity called ‘Imagine a World Without Plants’ which illustrates a typical family kitchen in the UK. Through group discussion, they see how plants underpin all parts of our everyday existence.

Outside we use our UK habitat parterres to link biodiversity with school science, focusing on adaptation.  First, we look at how humans protect themselves in the environment and then dispatch students to look for plants that use similar methods. By establishing the 'wow' and wonder of plants, we prepare students for understanding the role of the MSBP.

Older students come to Wakehurst Place wanting to know more about ex situ conservation.  Tours of the Project include introductions to why and where plant species are under threat, seed banks as part of plant conservation strategies and how the MSBP works. The visit finishes by focusing on the students. We want them to leave understanding the role of ex situ conservation and feeling empowered to take action themselves. One exercise is based on a barbeque. Students start by asking questions: Where does the charcoal come from? How is it harvested? Is the food from local sources or imported? How do our purchases affect the livelihoods of our communities and those in other countries? By examining these questions, students leave knowing that their choices make a difference.

For those unable to visit, last year the MSBP launched a web-based interactive programme in seed conservation leading to a vocational qualification (BTEC).

As we design future education projects at the MSBP, we will constantly try to reach new audiences. Last autumn we celebrated seeds through an event called the 'Big Draw'. The exhibition room became the venue for both artists and scientists working together with the public creating drawings on glass. The artists helped visitors to draw, and the scientists told stories about the collections. Drawn to this blending of art and nature, 1700 people visited the Project that day!

Botanic gardens are leaders in ex situ conservation of plant species from around the world, and as such we are working to meet the goals of the CBD. Our education programs should communicate to visitors the importance of ex situ conservation in saving plants.

About the Contributor 

Christine Newton, Head of Education, Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, nr Haywards Heath, RH17 6TN.


For more information on the Millennium Seed Bank Project, visit

Article 10 – Sustainable Use of Components of Biological Diversity

Home Garden Project, NBRI, Lucknow

Over the last decade or so in India and in many other parts of the world, it has become widely accepted that the deterioration of the natural environment has a direct impact on womens' lives. The nutritional security of many rural women, for example, has been seriously affected by explosive population growth. Whenever the prospects of food shortage have became acute in the past, people have looked to non-traditional plants that can serve as alternative food sources. 

With this in mind, the Eco-education Division of the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) in Lucknow, is trying to empower the rural population in India to manage the nutritional status and primary healthcare of their families. Particular attention has been paid to women in the home and women from less privileged classes (particular castes and tribes). The Division also teaches people how to use locally available bio-resources in a proper and sustainable manner.

Home Gardens

The Eco-education Division has set up a project to develop home gardens in Amol Kalla Paschim, a village about 23 kilometres outside Lucknow. More than 1700 people in 150 households live in the village. The purpose of the project is to enhance the nutritional and economic status of the villagers. This village was chosen because of the enormous population of poor and undernourished inhabitants.

The objectives of the project are:

  • to identify bodies of water in the village
  • to organise a self-help group for women
  • to educate villagers about how to cultivate seasonal vegetables
  • to identify lesser-known but locally available plants of nutritional and medicinal value.

The project was implemented in two phases.

The aims of phase one were:

  • to develop a demographic profile of the village
  • to clean up the village water
  • to liaise with villagers
  • to eradicate weeds from identified ponds and small patches of land suitable for gardening.

Phase two focused on setting up training programmes to teach women about the cultivation of crops such as coriander, onion, bottle guard and pumpkin. The procedure was as follows:

Scientists from the National Botanical Research Institute visited the village several times in order to:

  • identify key resource persons who could ensure the smooth running of the programme
  • assess the bio-resources utilisation pattern (food, fodder and fuel)
  • develop a demographic profile of the village
  • assess the nutritional status and social practices of the villagers
  • gather baseline information about the basic facilities such as health care and education available in the locality

On the basis of the scientists’ findings, an awareness campaign was organised ollowed by several training programmes. During the first awareness programme, 25 womens' Self-Help Groups (SHGs) were formed. Each group had five or six women representatives.

Each SHG was provided with an educational kit. Each kit contained small booklets on the nutritional importance of vegetables; a vegetable calendar; seeds of locally grown vegetables such as spinach, carrot, potato, pumpkin, and bottle guard; and stationery items such as pencil, pen, notepad and eraser. The resource materials were published in both Hindi and English.

SHGs were encouraged to visit the Eco-education Division’s model home garden and herbal garden. 

Experts delivered a series of interactive lectures in the local language, as well as field demonstrations on pit composting, vermi-composting, sowing of seeds and identification of medicinal plants.

Volunteers helped to motivate the men of the village to come forward to help their wives in agri-practices.

Feedback was collected after one year of the project: The 25 SHGs had developed model home gardens with the help of the materials given to them. They consumed some of the vegetables and sold some of them.  They harvested seeds for further sowing. Five groups developed home gardens and also gardens for primary health care. The remaining groups cultivated aquatic crops, especially Trapa bispinosa. The crops produced a wonderful harvest and each member of the five SHGs earned 1800 rupees. This was in addition to whatever they had used for their own consumption. The programme was very successful, and the Division is looking to expand this programme to nearby villages. The Indian government’s Department of Science & Technology gave financial support to the entire programme.

About the Contributor 

Dr Kamla Kulshreshtha, Head of Eco-education Division, National Botanical Research Institute,
Rana Pratap Marg, P. B. No. 436, Lucknow - 226 001, UP, India.  Email:

Article 12 – Research and Training

Education in Support of the CBD Article 12

Educators at botanic gardens actively support Article 12 (Research and Training) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, by promoting conservation research; interpreting research results for the wider public, and offering both technical and non-technical training related to plant conservation.


Botanic gardens undertake research in many areas that support the CBD, most importantly plant taxonomy and horticulture. Both of these research areas are essential for conservation and achieving the targets outlined in the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.  

Botanic gardens disseminate the results of their taxonomic research through published Floras, monographs, field guides, and guides on specific plant groups (medicinal, trees or ornamental, for example).  These are usually for sale in botanic garden bookshops.  More recently, botanic gardens have produced searchable databases on CD-ROMs or websites such as the International Plant Names Index, a database of the names and associated basic bibliographical details of all seed plants ( Other database projects include the Missouri Botanical Garden’s (U.S.A.) nomenclatural database and associated images, VAST (Vascular Tropicos) (, and the New York Botanical Garden Living Collections Database (U.S.A.) (

Horticultural research is necessary for habitat restoration and to develop propagation and cultivation methods for plants that have not been in cultivation. For example, The Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia, have developed a useful website focused on its research into the taxonomy, ecology and horticultural development of the Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) ( The Wollemi pine is a recently discovered tree from an evolutionary line thought to be extinct. Young specimens are grown in several Australian gardens with interpretive panels describing research on the taxon.

Botanic gardens often educate the public about research through interpretation.  Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Perth, Australia, for example has produced a brochure and poster on the use of smoke for germination. The South African National Institute (formerly National Botanical Institute) produced a story board on the use of fire in regenerating fynbos.


Botanic gardens organise training for both internal and external audiences.  Training in botanic garden management, horticulture, plant record keeping, taxonomy and herbarium techniques, for example, build capacity for botanic gardens to undertake conservation.  Additionally, botanic gardens organise training courses for garden staff in environmental education, as well as for local communities in plant identification and plant conservation techniques, all of which directly support implementation of the CBD.

Botanic gardens provide a unique resource for plant identification courses as they have libraries, hold documented collections of living plants and often have practicing taxonomists on the staff.  For example, at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, UK, systematic flower beds representing nearly 100 plant families provide a valuable teaching and research resource.  Also the Jardín Botánico del Instituo de Biología in Mexico uses its collection of labelled medicinal herbs, a book and a CD-Rom on medicinal plants as part of its training courses for traditional healers, midwives and pharmaceutical researchers.  The University of Genoa Botanic Garden, Italy, organises practical workshops for the identification of wild edible plants (known as Preboggion), one of the most important elements in the regional cuisine and sometimes medicine, while the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, provides training for customs officials and police officers in basic taxonomy for enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Botanic gardens also organise national and international courses on plant conservation techniques and environmental education (e.g. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Denver Botanic Garden, USA.) to build capacity for conservation.  The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has also published a training tool:The CBD for Botanists, in English, French and Spanish on the implementation of the CBD. 
Programmes such as these at botanic gardens worldwide demonstrate how garden educators can be actively involved in meeting Article 12 of the CBD.

About the Contributor

Etelka Leadlay, Head of Research and Membership Services, BGCI.  Email:

Article 13 – Public Education and Awareness

Environmental Education at the Forest of Learning, Kuala Lumpur

Rimba Ilmu (“Forest of Learning” in Malaysia’s national language) is the 80-hectare botanic garden of the University of Malaya, founded in 1974. It is located within the sprawling university campus southwest of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden has labelled collections for visitors; its own building with a 70-seat lecture hall; and a permanent exhibition, "Rain Forests and Our Environment", a large and comprehensive interpretive facility for understanding biodiversity and the role of rain forests in environmental well-being.

A small complement of staff, headed by two academic staff members and assisted by a science officer and a small team of ground staff, manages the botanic garden. In addition to its regular operating hours, a special guided tour for the public is arranged on the first Saturday of every month. Excluding students from the University, between 7,000 and 8,000 people visit the botanic garden each year.

Education programmes at Rimba Ilmu fall into two categories: informal visits and exhibits for the general public and special programmes for groups. Group programmes target the University’s 30,000 students, as well as other schools and colleges. These programmes are one of the main components of Rimba Ilmu’s efforts to promote awareness in nature and conservation among schools and the general public, and create further opportunities and encourage linkages to enhance education and environmental awareness.

The Rimba Ilmu mission statement and philosophy of environmental education:

The Rimba Ilmu Environmental Education Programme seeks to promote environmental awareness and an understanding of the relationship between people and nature through experiences that encourage personal discovery and group interaction, and respect for the natural environment.

Education programmes focus on the interactions between the main components of our planet’s physical, biological and cultural environment. Skills cultivated in programmes include exploring our environment and gathering information; noticing similarities and differences; describing and recording information and ideas; interpreting the environment, its components and processes from different perspectives; and problem-solving (making decisions on the best courses of action).

Values considered appropriate and thus encouraged include: a desire for a healthy environment; care and respect for the natural world; consciousness of the vulnerability of the environment; recognition that collective good sense is necessary for maintaining a healthy environment; readiness to adapt to options that assure a safer and better natural environment; and appreciation of the role of increasing knowledge toward better environmental management.

For most groups, the main programme structure introduces elements regarding a sound environmental understanding, including:

  1. understanding the value of natural habitats, especially those in the rain forests
  2. understanding biodiversity, its genetic and evolutionary basis, and the kind of work required to document this vast diversity in a rich region such as Malaysia
  3. the cycling of substances: carbon, nutrient, water, etc.
  4. consequences of environmental disturbance: floods, climatic change, pollution
  5. the concept of the ecosystem, food webs, and so on
  6. recycling and its objectives and impacts.

Programme participation requires a nominal fee that covers refreshments and materials; but is heavily subsidised by the University in terms of staff salaries and administrative facilities. All activities are led by instructors. Group leaders (e.g. teachers) are involved where possible and encouraged to create follow-up activities after the visit.

Rainforests and Our Environment Exhibition

Rainforests provide a natural theme for Rimba Ilmu because Malaysia is home to species-rich tropical forests as well as rapid changes to the natural landscape. The special 500-square-metre exhibition opened in 1997 and introduces the essential ecosystem features of rain forests; rain forests as a source of natural products, genetic opportunities, and ecological services; tropical species richness, including endemism, rarity and the existence of special centres of accumulated richness; the degradation and reduction of rain forests; basic ideas on conservation and sustainable management of natural resources; protected area management; examples of biological diversity; the linkages between organisms and special habitats such as wetlands.

The Rare Plants & Orchid Conservatory

Opened in 2000, the Rare Plants & Orchid Conservatory is part of Rimba Ilmu's expanding effort to provide a better understanding of rare species from a conservation perspective. The collection features rare and threatened species, including plant species that are naturally endemic (or restricted) to particular localities or sites; species that have a relatively wide distribution outside of Malaysia, but which are infrequently encountered (and so are rare) in the country; and species that were once much more common, usually found in lowland forests, but whose range and population have decreased due to habitat loss. This is the only Conservatory in the region with an emphasis on rare plant species.

Special Exhibitions and Events

Special exhibitions and events, including World Environment Day celebrations, are held at the botanic garden. A special exhibition, "Rainforest for Health", was brought to Malaysia in 2001 from the Netherlands. Pamphlets in both the Malay language and English accompanied the exhibit.


In just a short period of time, education programmes have become a strong focus at Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden and their popularity has steadily increased. To strengthen existing programmes and to support further expansion, the following needs have been identified:

  1. subsidies to the operating budget, especially to cater to an increasing number of groups
  2. additional staffing to deliver additional programmes
  3. teaching equipment: slide projectors, field (mobile) projection screen, soil augers, diameter tapes, binoculars, computer equipment
  4. refurbishment of the Rimba Ilmu Activity Centre
  5. establishment of Interactive Learning Facilities
  6. funds for publications.

With these concerns and needs in mind, Rimba Ilmu is moving forward to strengthen environmental education in Malaysia and to meet conservation goals outlined in the CBD.

About the Contributor 

M. Sugumanran, Rimba Ilmu, Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Malaya, Jalan, Pantai, 50603, Kuala Lumpa, Malaysia. Email:

Article 15 – Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing

Implementing Article 15: A Case Study from Kew

Article 15 outlines the framework for how genetic resources should be acquired under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Individual contracting states (parties) then decide how to implement the basic principles which state that:

  • access must be with the Prior Informed Consent of the party providing the genetic resource (15(5))
  • access must be on Mutually Agreed Terms (15(4))
  • benefits should be shared fairly and equitably with the provider of the genetic resource (15(7)).

To date, although more than 100 countries are developing national legislation addressing ‘Access and Benefit Sharing’ (ABS); only a handful have actually introduced clear laws outlining how they expect others to access and use genetic material from their country, and what benefits they expect to be shared in return. As significant users and suppliers of genetic resources, botanic gardens have an important role to play in educating and raising awareness of best practice in ABS. Kew’s CBD Unit works with staff, visitors, partner institutions and government to spread this message.

Staff: Kew staff conduct 50 collecting expeditions each year, bringing back approximately 5,000 specimens for the herbarium, living collections, and seed and DNA banks. In addition, 54,000 specimens per year are received or borrowed from, or supplied or loaned to other institutions. We have developed a rolling programme of staff training days to ensure we acquire material legally, use and supply it in line with any special terms, and share benefits. Training involves lectures, a web-based quiz (to familiarise staff with the CBD website), and discussion exercises. We have also developed an intranet staff guide outlining procedures at Kew. 

Garden visitors: Kew receives 1.4 million visitors to the garden per year. We want to communicate both how the CBD has changed the way Kew works and how visitors might be affected. We regularly train our volunteer guides, explaining the basics of the CBD and enabling them to answer questions such as: “Can I take one of these seedlings for my garden?” and “Why can’t I buy plants from Kew’s collection in the shop?”.  We help draft correspondence, so that when well-meaning visitors send us plants collected on holiday, we appropriately and clearly explain why Kew can’t accept them.  In addition, interpretation signs in the garden show how Kew staff collect plants with permission and partners from countries of origin. 

Partners and other stakeholders: Kew runs several international Diploma courses for professionals (such as partner institution staff) and contributes to several UK university courses. We have developed a CBD module that introduces students to the CBD, outlines how it can be implemented by botanic gardens, and includes popular role play exercises exploring concepts such as prior informed consent.  We have also produced The CBD for Botanists, a plain-language user guide/presentation pack on the CBD and ABS, and we are developing ABS pages for the BGCI website.

Governments: We provide practical advice to the UK government and other policymakers on how policy may affect research and collections management, and often participate in the UK delegation to international meetings.

About the Contributor

China Williams & Kate Davis, CBD Implementation Officers, Conventions and Policy Section, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB.  Email:

Article 17 & 18 – Exchange of Information and Technical and Scientific Cooperation

The Environmental Education Commission of the Brazilian Botanic Garden Network

The Environmental Education Commission (CEA) of the Brazilian Botanic Garden Network (RBJB) was created during the development of the Brazilian Botanic Gardens Action Plan, part of BGCI’s 'Investing in Nature' project.  I'nvesting in Nature' supports Brazil’s 30 botanic gardens in developing public education programmes focusing on the conservation of Brazilian flora.

CEA comprises representatives from five Brazilian geographic regions (south, southeast, northeast, center-west and north), participants from each region choose their regional representative and deputy. Since it was created, CEA has held several meetings, including during the RBJB annual meetings held in July. These meetings have provided an excellent opportunity for delegates to update their knowledge and expertise, and to participate in a training week supported by 'Investing in Nature'.  Themes for the meetings are selected by the participants and have included the urban environment, teacher training, eco-tourism, sustainability and interpretation. 

CEA is also involved in a range of activities, including:

  • translation and publication of BGCI’s Environmental Education in Botanic Gardens: Guidelines for Developing Individual Strategies.  Eight education case studies from Brazilian botanic gardens were included in the Guidelines, which were distributed to members of the RBJB, schools and botanic gardens in Brazil, Portugal and Africa
  • translation and publication of Making your Garden Come Alive: Environmental Interpretation in Botanical Gardens by Maryke Honig and published by the Southern African Botanical Diversity Network
  • development of  the ‘Botanic Gardens Go to School’ Project.  The objective of this project is for gardens to develop a closer relationship with their local schools and to promote the educational possibilities botanic gardens have to offer. 
  • Model Education Award.  Each year, a number of botanic gardens are awarded a grant, through 'Investing in Nature', to create new education and conservation projects. 

In a country of continental dimensions and with widely diverse socio-environmental and cultural features, working on a national level presents a number of challenges. Nevertheless, the different regional characteristics involved make the process all the more interesting and rewarding. To overcome the distance barrier, CEA participants use the internet. During its meetings, CEA forms a mosaic of different colours, flavours, contrasts, cultural expressions and regional accents, bearing a strong resemblance to Brazil’s national identity. Current CEA members are José Fernando Vargas, Porto Alegre Botanic Garden, Porto Alegre/RS; Cristiane Spezialli, Belo Horizonte Zoo-botanical Foundation, Belo Horizonte/MG; Raimunda Santos de Abreu, Salvador Botanic Garden, Salvador/BA; Helena do Socorro Alves, Emílio Goeldi Museum of Pará, Belém/Pará; Anajulia Salles, Brasília Botanic Garden, Brasília/DF

About the Contributor 

Dr Tania Sampaio Pereira, Brazil Programme Consultant, BGCI, Institute de Pesquisas Jardim Botanico do Rio de Janeiro, Rio, Brazil.  Email:

From Practice to Action

The AG Pädagogik (AGP) is the education working group of the Verband Botanischer Gärten e.V. (Association of Botanic Gardens), representing about 100 botanic gardens in German-speaking countries. The AGP comprises a range of people interested in supporting botanic garden education: biologists, education officers, gardeners and teachers all work informally to set targets, develop programmes, courses and publications, and establish national and international contacts.

Three times a year, the 8-10 core representatives of the AGP spend a conference weekend discussing present and future needs, planning training courses, developing publications, updating the AGP homepage, and contacting staff in other botanic gardens with circulars and articles that they might like to publish in their newsletters.
The AGP implements two training courses a year in cooperation with a botanic garden. ‘Biodiversity in Educational Practice’ was the theme for the most recent course held in March 2004 at Tharandt in the Forstbotanischer Garten of the Technical University Dresden, Germany. The programme was varied and exciting with botanic garden scientists giving lectures about the CBD and their research in, for example, forestry, agriculture and the genetic diversity of endangered species. Time to discuss and exchange experiences is always an important element of the courses, especially for newcomers and sole educators in botanic gardens.

For those unable to participate in the training courses, we publish papers offering practical ideas related to the main themes. For example, ‘The Foxglove Calls the Bumblebee’ provides a wealth of practical advice on how to teach visitors about floral ecology. ‘Gardens in Autumn’ suggests a range of activities, including fruit harvesting with children, simple experiments to explain the changing climate conditions and dyeing fabrics with leaves or wood.

The AGP has also translated and published BGCI’s publication Environmental Education in Botanic Gardens: Guidelines for Developing Individual Strategies, and a copy has been sent to every member.

About the Contributors

For further information please contact:

Renate Grothe
Vinnhorster Weg 2
D 30419 Hannover
Tel. +(0)511 1684 7665
Fax. ++(0)511 1684 7352

Karin Roscher
Forstbotanischer Garten der TU Dresden
Pienner Str. 8
D-01737 Tharandt
Tel. +(0)35203-383 1601


La Convention sur la Diversité Biologique (CDB) a été un des résultats clef de la Conférence des Nations Unies sur l’Environnement et le Développement (Rio, 1992). Ratifiée par 188 pays, la Convention a trois objectifs : la conservation de la diversité biologique, l’utilisation durable de ses composants et le partage juste et équitable des bénéfices provenant des ressources génétiques. L’éducation et la sensibilisation du public sont une part importante de la CDB et sont transversales, c’est-à-dire qu’elles sont incluses dans les sept programmes de travail de la CDB. L’article ci-dessous consiste en une série de contributions. Il commence par une présentation générale de la CDB puis s’intéresse à savoir combien d’articles de la CDB sont rendus effectifs par l’éducation dans les Jardins Botaniques.


La Convención sobre la Diversidad Biológica (CBD) fue uno de los resultados clave  de la conferencia sobre el medio ambiente de las NU sobre el Desarrollo y Medioambiente (Rió, 1992).   Esta fue ratificada por 188 países; la CBD tiene tres objetivos: la conservación de la diversidad biológica, el uso sostenible de sus componentes y compartir los beneficios  que se generen de la utilización de los recursos genéticos de una manera justa y equitativa. La educación y concienciación publica es una parte importante de la CBD, asimismo es fundamental y básica; tanto que es incluida en los siete programas de trabajo de la CBD.  La siguiente contribución consta de una serie de trabajos. Esta comienza con una perspectiva general de la CBD, continuando con cuáles son los artículos de la CBD que están siendo implementados a través de la educación en jardines botánicos.