A new study has suggested that because of illegal trading, Paphiopedilum callosumis, one of several species of slipper orchids, has been classified as endangered.
The illegal trading of exquisite orchids at plant markets in Thailand is “invisible” because hardly any of it makes it into government statistics that are supposed to document illegal trade in wild flora, noted Jacob Phelps and Edward Webb of the Center for International Forestry Research, Science News reported.
The pair conducted a rare in-depth study of trade in wild-collected ornamental plants in Southeast Asia and found 347 orchid species, including many considered threatened, for sale at Thai markets.
Not all orchids are declining, but trade is regulated for every species in the family Orchidaceae, requiring a permit or other approval to sell. That’s because many species are disappearing.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature released the latest updates to the IUCN Red List, the big database of species that documents threats and assesses conservation statuses. Of the 84 species of Asian slipper orchids, including some Paphiopedilum orchids that were assessed in this round of updates, 99 percent are threatened with extinction.
Habitat fragmentation and destruction, deforestation and illegal logging are contributing to many species’ decline, IUCN notes. But an additional huge concern is that people are collecting these species from the wild for regional and international trade. And though this trade is illegal, no one is enforcing the rules.
The huge discrepancy between observed and reported trade is alarming, and demonstrates the need for strengthened botanical conservation efforts that include improved trade monitoring, the researchers write.
The study appears in Biological Conservation.