Illegal trade, illicit harvest threatens India's protected orchid species

India’s orchids are under pressure from illicit harvesting and 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.

In order to highlight the threat to orchids from illegal trade and to increase the capacity of enforcement officials to identify the 11 protected orchid species, TRAFFIC and WWF-India have jointly developed a poster on the orchid species whose trade or any other form of utilisation is prohibited.

The poster was released on Wednesday ahead of ‘Save the Himalayas Day’. Every year on September 9, India celebrates ‘Save the Himalayas Day’ to spread awareness about the Himalayan ecosystem.

India’s Himalayan region is home to many orchid species, with Eastern Himalayas exhibiting maximum orchid diversity. 

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

The new poster on the ‘Legally Protected Orchids of India‘ combines beautiful illustrations of orchid flowers and related information in a bid to aid the 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.

“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,” Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF-India, said.

“Such vast orchid diversity, unsustainable harvesting practices and illegal trade coupled with limited protection measures and lack of awareness make the future of orchids a serious concern. By issuing this identification poster, our joint efforts to stop the illegal orchid trade now gets a strong and considered boost,” Dr Merwyn Fenerandes, Coordinator, TRAFFIC’s India Office, added.

In India, orchids are illegally collected 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 have 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. 

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.

Both the factsheet and the poster by TRAFFIC and WWF-India are an effort to bring conservation and protection issues related to orchids to the forefront. Both of these are freely available for use and sharing

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