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Illegal Trade Threatens India’s Protected Orchid Species

On Save the Himalayas Day, TRAFFIC and WWF-India develop poster on legally protected orchid species whose trade or utilisation is prohibited.
Illegal Trade Threatens India’s Protected Orchid Species

 Poster of Legally Protected Orchids of India

Patna: In a bid to conserve the much-threatened orchid species of flowers found in the Himalayan region in India and to check illegal trade of the protected orchid species, a new identification poster was released on Wednesday to help strengthen wildlife law enforcement. This new identification poster will also create awareness about orchids among people.

According to World Wild Fund WWF for Nature (WWF) India, India's orchids are under pressure from illicit harvesting and exploitation for illegal trade. Of the vast diversity of 1,256 orchid species recorded in India, 307 are endemic to our country, and only 11 species are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Export of orchid species specified under the Schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, CITES (Appendix I), and in the Export Import (EXIM) Policy of India is prohibited.

Environmental experts have been calling for protection of orchids in the country. They have pointed out time and again that orchids are under serious threat.

V Sundararaju, president of the Society for the Conservation of Nature, in a press statement, said orchids were facing threats due to the rapid destruction of natural habitat by deforestation, forest fire, overgrazing, felling of trees, rapid urbanisation and indiscriminate collection for floral business. Orchid species with medicinal properties are becoming very rare and endangered due to over-exploitation.

In order to highlight the threat to orchids from illegal trade and to increase the capacity of the enforcement officials to identify the 11 protected orchid species, Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC) and WWF-India have developed a poster on the legally protected orchid species whose trade or any other form of utilisation is prohibited.

The poster was released on Wednesday ahead of Save the Himalayas Day since India's Himalayan region is home to many orchid species, with Eastern Himalayas exhibiting maximum orchid diversity.

The new poster, "Legally Protected Orchids of India" combines beautiful illustrations of orchid flowers and related information and will aid enforcement agencies in identifying the orchid species in the illegal trade. The poster will also help to create awareness about orchids among students, educators and the general public, a statement by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said.

Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF India, in the statement, said: "Orchids are found throughout the Himalayan region of India. Time and again, new orchid species are discovered in the region, reflecting the hidden trove of floral treasures of the Himalayas. Conservation measures in the Himalayan region are key to conserving myriad species, including orchids and the ecosystems they represent".

Merwyn Fenerandes, Coordinator, TRAFFIC India, said, "such vast orchid diversity, unsustainable harvesting practices and illegal trade coupled with limited protection measures and lack of awareness makes the future of orchids a serious concern. By issuing this identification poster, our joint efforts to stop the illegal orchid trade gets now a strong and considered boost."

“In India, orchids are illegally collected from the wild and traded as ornamental plants, for use in traditional medicine and also consumed as food. The rising demand for orchids for various purposes leads to unsustainable harvesting practices. Globally, this second-largest family of flowering plants are some of the most prized and traded flowers. In India, protected species of orchids such as Blue Vanda and Ladies Slipper have been found in wildlife seizures,” the statement read.

On the International Day for Biological Diversity in May this year, TRAFFIC and WWF-India also released a factsheet titled, "Orchids: Factsheet on India's orchids in illegal wildlife trade". The factsheet was a compilation of beautiful images and well-researched content on general information and facts about orchids, their legal status and threats.

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