The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Orchid Specialists Group is an international network of professionals and non-professional volunteers who are committed to the conservation and sustainable utilisation of orchid species and their habitats.
Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants and they occur in a wide range of ecosystems and habitats. A charismatic group, many species are important in horticulture. Yet, habitats of orchids are threatened throughout the world, and the Orchid Specialist Group is dedicated to their conservation and sustainable use.
The Orchid Specialist Group was first established in 1984 and now has approximately 200 members from around the world, including leading scientists, with expertise in the various disciplines that are vital in implementing effective orchid conservation strategies.
Members include orchid taxonomists, ecologists, population biologists, data managers, commercial and amateur growers, in vitro propagation experts, seed bank managers, reintroduction and restoration specialists, nature reserve managers, specialists in conservation education and training and international wildlife legislation experts.
Organisations and societies with conservation interests are also represented, including botanic gardens, herbaria, universities, nurseries, government departments and orchid societies. The Orchid Specialist Group assists in international efforts to conserve plant diversity, by providing technical support and encouragement for the development and execution of programmes to study, document, save, restore and manage orchids and their habitats wisely.
Synchronicity Earth’s Asian Species Programme supports the Orchid Specialist Group’s efforts to carry out a baseline study on Southeast Asian slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) conservation strategies in Indonesia. Southeast Asian slipper orchids are amongst the most threatened plants on earth, and in great demand from the illegal wildlife trade.
Whilst the majority of ornamental plants traded internationally today are grown in greenhouses, harvesting wild plants for illegal trade is a particular problem in Southeast Asia. IUCN Red List assessments of all Southeast Asian slipper orchid species show that 98 per cent are threatened with extinction, with illegal trade listed as a major threat.
In some cases, these threats have been particularly severe, as in the case of the harvesting of more than 99 per cent of all known Paphiopedilum canhii plants from the wild within six months of the species’ discovery, with plants being smuggled out of Vietnam for sale to international orchid collectors.
Yet very little is known about the trade dynamics affecting these species, or about existing conservation and collecting efforts. To address the critical shortfall in information, the Orchid Specialist Group’s Global Trade Programme is carrying out a scoping project to gather information about the current situation in Indonesia, one of the key countries for collection and trade in wild plants.
This work will provide the baseline data, momentum, and networks needed to develop a strategic and science-based plan for Paphiopedilum conservation in Indonesia to save these species from irreversible extinction.