Here, a hummingbird pollinates an Eleanthus orchid. Most orchids are protected by national and international regulations, yet some species are being wiped out almost as soon as they’re discovered.
Are Traders and Traffickers Winning the Orchid Battle?
Orchids are wanted for everything from decoration to food and medicine, but illegal collectors could be wiping out species before we even know they exist.
More than 1.1 billion orchids were bought and sold around the world during a recent decade. Ninety-nine percent of them were artificially propagated, not taken from the wild, according to a 2017 review of the orchid trade. But what this number doesn’t account for is the booming illegal trade in wild orchids.
Although scientists don’t know just how many wild orchids are collected and sold on the black market each year, it’s clear that the trade is a serious problem. Even among the tens of thousands of orchid species known to scientists, many species can no longer be found locally—or anywhere.
Orchids are especially vulnerable to overharvesting because many species occur in one location and have low population densities. “You only