Opinion: Slippers, Thieves and Smugglers – Dealing with the Illegal International Trade in Orchids

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The high standard of living in the developed world has fuelled the desire for wildlife and wildlife products. This is especially true in Europe where the 370 million people in the original 15 Member States make it one of the largest and most diverse markets in the world. For this reason there are extensive numbers of plants and animals in international trade and, thank goodness, the overwhelming percentage is legal. Nevertheless, the illegal trade is still worth a great deal of money and people will continue to flout the laws and regulation of states that are attempting to prevent international trade in rare species. Orchids are among the most valuable of plants that are traded around the world and most of them are now commercially grown and legally exported through reputable companies. Nevertheless the demand for rarities far outstrips the supply. For this reason some orchid collectors become obsessed with the idea of obtaining rarities and will pay vast sums of money for them, even if they know the plants to have been illegally collected and smuggled into the country.

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