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Social media, e-commerce sites facilitate illegal orchid trade

21 / 12 / 2018, Mongabaycom News

Reports of illegal trafficking in elephant ivory or rhino horn abound, but plants are actually more frequent victims of the illicit trade than wildlife. In fact, roughly 30,000 of the 35,000 species covered by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) are plants. Orchids are especially vulnerable to illegal trafficking due to their beauty and popularity. The nearly 30,000 species of orchids make up roughly 10 percent of the Earth’s plant species, yet represent more than 70 percent of the species listed on CITES. “It’s really an orchid convention,” Amy Hinsley, a postdoctoral research associate and fellow in the Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, told Mongabay. She recently published a report that outlines the impact of the internet on the orchid trade. On one hand, it’s become easier to track the illegal trade now that it’s online, according to Hinsley. In the past, a researcher needed to go to orchid shows to find out what was being traded. Online, Hinsley can visit websites, look at postings, and sometimes observe the interactions between sellers and buyers in comments or on message boards. But on the flipside, the internet also allows illegal traders to access global markets much more easily. Technologies that speed information transfer in mainstream commerce also allow traffickers to use the internet to deliver products more effectively, receive payments, encrypt communications, or thwart law enforcement agencies through digital attacks. In the case of wild plants, traffickers can identify and map the…

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