Plant Poaching Story - mixed feelings…

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/mar/20/california-succulent-smuggling-dudleya?campaign_id=49&emc=edit_ca_20220321&instance_id=56292&nl=california-today&regi_id=78694046&segment_id=86104&te=1&user_id=349996a4a653c8a09d633d5191759021

I had mixed feeling reading this story. On the one hand, I’m glad a notorious plant poacher was caught. On the other hand, the story details how valuable some wild plants are to consumers. This, perhaps, creates an even bigger awareness of the desirability of such plants, increases the market, and teaches poachers what to look for in the wild. :confused:

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I would guess that the people who become major poachers don’t initially learn about new targets to poach from news articles like this one. Even so, Dudleya is already a well-known target. The article even mentions there being a punishment for specifically Dudleya poaching. Whatever minor increase in poaching activity comes from articles like this would presumably be mitigated by the amount of people who take up an anti-poaching stance once they hear about Dudleya for the first time.

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I agree with @mws about poachers already being well aware of this lucrative succulent. However, making the general public more aware of this problem is crucial.
Plant poaching remains a chronic problem think of unethical orchid explorers who would take a choice plant for a collector and then destroy others in the locale. I think that tissue culture technology has made orchids much more abundant and affordable so less of a target nowadays. Succulents are even easier to propagate than orchids so I hope that in this instance that shortly the market will saturate and both fear of punishment and diminishing returns will discourage poaching.

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Dudleya are the exception to this, right? I was under the impression they can’t be propagated from cuttings.

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They boast the precise mix of qualities that Americans demand from crime victims: they are pretty and small, very fragile and yet curiously resilient.

Good god, who let this go to print

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From a quick search on the web of gardening guides and YouTubes I confirmed what I suspected Dudleya can be propagated from cuttings quite easily. The plant naturally throws off offshoots. Some say that they are hard to propagate from leaves, but even if that is so still offshoots would be enough to multiply the plants. If the poacher in question had been less greedy and more patient he could have poached 1/6th the amount he did and had the same amount of plants. Sustainable harvesting and poaching do not generally belong in the same sentence.

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I personally would like more information to be available on what plant species are considered vulnerable to poaching/overforaging. For inatters specifically, this can be valuable for knowing what observations to obscure/exercise discretion in posting. Auto-obscuration is kind of a blunt instrument and there are surely plenty of species that are highly susceptible to over-foraging that probably should be auto-obscured globally but are currently only obscured in some areas or not at all (see, e.g. Ramps/allium tricoccum).

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the story is a bit over exaggerated but plant poaching is still a problem that will not be ending anytime soon. as long as people cultivate plants there will be poachers, and as long as there are poachers there will be arrests.

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Poaching succulents in the Northern Cape is a huge problem. Better to make more (caring) people aware that ‘plant poaching’ is a thing. Also beetles and reptiles.

And then the issues around - we have rescued all this poached life - what can we do with it. Don’t know exactly where it came from, to return it.

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Beetles? I know reptiles, birds, plants etc. are targets, but I didn’t think insects were.

Exotic pets, or collectors (to me worse than a poacher - as they pay to fuel the whole cycle!) No poachers without a buyer’s market.

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Yeah, I suppose so. I remember when I was in the mountainous part of Puebla, we drove past locals selling birds they had caught. I voiced my feelings, and my Mexican friend said something about ‘buy them and release them’. I said not really, and my visiting supervisor (it was a Masters placement) said perhaps I should work with something like IUCN. I replied no, I would probably harm someone. I don’t know who was buying the birds - it was way up in the mountain backwoods. I suppose determined collectors might…

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The article gets one thing right: “One way to prevent the poaching of rare plants is simply to cultivate as many of the coveted plants as possible, thus reducing the market value of stolen plants.” That is perhaps the only way to curb the plant trade.

It doesn’t say what happened to the confiscated plants…were they replanted in the areas from which they were taken? The fines taken should have been used for that purpose.

The article is slanted against “foreigners”. The word is only used once but the bias is pretty obvious. A better article would have provided some balance by explaining that affluent countries have been exploiting unprotected natural lands for many hundreds of years, even before sailing ships made the practice simpler. There are many such stories to tell.

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I can’t speak to the Dudleyas - perhaps it is okay to replant them somewhere.

Our succulents overwhelm rehab nurseries. Almost impossible to know where to replant poached plants. Tortoises have to go to a rehab sanctuary because of concerns about spreading diseases to wild survivors.

If. There are strong local laws protecting wildlife. Best to go that route.
Which circles back to raising awareness. That plant you bought at the nursery last week? Where did it come from, poached from the wild, bred in captivity, who knows??

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I hate to think! What if it’s seized evidence that goes into a storage locker? I don’t know, but it seems unlikely to get replanted at the source. :disappointed:

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Fwiw, my friend’s great great (however many greats) aunt had a ball gown covered in iridescent beetle wings. They donated it to the Oakland Museum.

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I would suspect n this case it may be a factor that the guy who was prosecuted was Korean, and he was exporting the succulents to Asia .

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Raising awareness is a two-edged sword. Making ginseng hunting into some sort of cool “new Wild West” thing via scripted reality TV shows hasn’t helped here in Southern Appalachia, for example. People see these shows or read stories and get ideas. Last year, the Forest Service stopped giving out ginseng harvest permits because the plant has become so scarce from over-harvesting. Locals feel cheated out of their centuries-old traditions. Rangers will tell you “we don’t talk about ginseng” when the topic comes up on a hike. It’s a constant battle driven by demand from Asia. Poaching is rampant, not just on protected lands but also private properties where growers are trying to propagate wild-simulated ginseng for the market. Most of it gets shipped to China. When they do catch the poachers and can determine where the confiscated roots came from (often done using dyes to mark the roots), they’ll try to replant them but many end up getting poached/stolen again. Just one example how too much of the wrong type of publicity can make a poaching problem worse.

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When I volunteered as a docent for an open space authority, we did not point out the locally native Dudlya. I recall on a yearly wildflower walk in a normally closed property, a patch of this dudlya was roped off with the sign asking people to keep out - sensitive habitat.

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