US Battles to Save Illegally Trafficked Plants

The illegal plant trade endangers many rare plant species, and orchids are prime targets. International agreements prohibit this trade, so what happens when illegally trafficked plants are found and confiscated? The BBC reports that species seized in the USA become property of the government, which places them in a rescue program. Many of the plants are dried or damaged during their travels. More than 80 botanic institutions provide a network to save the endangered varieties.

It’s important to save such plants, not only to protect endangered species, but because the plants themselves may be required in court as evidence of trafficking. And their country of origin may request their return. Eventually institutions such as the US Botanic Garden can incorporate them into their collections – but they are never resold and nobody profits from their commercial value.

Advances in education and technology can slow the illegal plant trade. You can help by pledging to always buy orchids from reputable vendors, and never to buy a plant taken from the wild. Ask if you’re not sure.

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