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Poaching threatens rare Indian orchids



April 23, 2015

Dendrobium transparens Photo by Orchi

Poaching is putting increasing pressure not just on animals but on plants too. In northern India, illegal harvesting of wild orchids destined for the Chinese herbal medicine trade is decimating local populations.

North Lakhimpur in Assam, among the Himalayan foothills of north-eastern India, is a centre for rare Dendrobium orchids, such as Dendrobium transparens and Dendrobium aphyllum which grow in the surrounding jungle. It’s been reported that illegal collectors are using children to harvest the wild orchids which then fetch high prices, both from avid collectors and also for traditional Chinese medicine. Dendrobium orchids contain polysaccharides and alkaloids valued for treating infection, cancer and gastritis.

Arne and Ben Larsen orchids - Dendrobium aphyllum

Arne and Ben Larsen orchids – Dendrobium aphyllum

During a survey of Deergha forest in early April, conservationists from Green Heritage found very few remaining orchid populations despite this being their main flowering season which makes them highly visible.

The wild orchids are also under threat from jhum (slash and burn) forest clearing and forest fires.

More at The Assam Tribune

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