World's largest nut gets new holographic tag

The world's largest and heaviest nut, the coco de mer, is getting an upgraded anti-counterfeiting system.

Found on just two islands of the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean, the coco de mer palm has seeds or nuts that reach half a metre in diameter and can weigh as much as 25 kilograms.

The outer shell is popular as a tourist souvenir while the edible inner kernel is desirable in Asian countries, where it is believed to have aphrodisiac properties.

The seed's rarity and popularity make it a target for poachers and fraudsters.

The coco de mer already featured an anti-counterfeiting tag system but the Seychelles Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change found this original tag was easily falsified.

"Our coco de mer need to have better protection," said Alain de Comarmond, principal secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change. "Due to thefts and falsification of the old tag, the ministry had to invest in new security measures."

An investment of around $10,000 has resulted in a new modern tag with holographic security features and permit system, which will make it more difficult to counterfeit, de Comarmond said.

The holographic system includes visible security features when held up to the light and at a certain angle. An inviolability system is also included, which makes the coco de mer illegal should the tag be removed.

"The new tag and permit system will improve the way the coco de mer is being produced, the way it is managed and traded. The system will assist us to further fight poaching and other violations that threaten the endemic species," de Comarmond said.

The transition to the new tag will take place gradually over the year.

The coco de mer is listed as a threatened species, is internationally protected and there are strict laws governing the possession, distribution and export of nuts.

While the plant grows naturally in the UNESCO world heritage Vallee de Mai nature reserve on the Seychelle island Praslin, poaching and the illegal sale of the nuts is a big problem, and appears to be on the increase. Mature nuts can be sold for between $450 and $750 per kilogram.

A two-year survey in 2014 found that poaching was harming the plant's population, which is already low due to naturally slow growth rates of 20-30 years before the first nuts are produced. Out of 6,500 trees on the island of Curieuse, there were only 272 nuts, the survey found.

Research is currently being undertaken to understand the life cycle of the plant, including pollination, fertilisation and nut production.

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