Saturday, July 20, 2024
Caladenia leucochila (Image: KPBG)
Media Release

Rare plants stolen from Kings Park

Conservation efforts of WA’s rare orchids have been impacted by theft

  • Up to 900 of WA’s rarest orchids have been stolen from the Conservation Garden in Kings Park
  • The Conservation Garden provides an opportunity for the public to engage with rare plants
  • Illegal poaching also impacting natural populations across the State and around the world

Display plantings of threatened orchids have been targeted by thieves in Kings Park and Botanic Garden (KPBG). The majority of the 400 Carbunup King Spider Orchids (Caladenia procera) and 500 Collie Spider Orchids (Caladenia leucochila) housed in the Conservation Garden have been removed or destroyed.

Caladenia procera
Caladenia procera

These orchids only occur naturally in a very restricted part of WA, with global population estimates sitting at just 280 Carbunup Kings Spider Orchids and 900 Collie Spider Orchids.

The plants were on display to provide a unique opportunity for botanic garden visitors to see rare species unlikely to be seen in the wild. These plantings play a valuable role in reducing visitation impacts on endemic populations, contributing to conservation in their natural habitat.

The plantings are the result of a four-year collaboration between science staff and horticultural teams. They were designed to better inform how precious seedlings are moved into natural sites.

Tuber of a caladenia
Tuber of a caladenia

It is an offence under the Biodiversity Conservation Act (2016) for illegal take of threatened species with significant penalties of up to $500,000 for individuals and $2.5 million for a corporation. All orchid species are listed under CITES, an agreement that regulates the international movement of species that may be threatened by trade.

“Kings Park is an A-class reserve that has always been easily accessible. It is disappointing to see illegal poaching of these rare species impacting our conservation activities and the experience for many of the 5 million visitors each year” said Sue McDougall (Director, Kings Park)

“These plants were the public face of a much larger translocation and conservation effort to ensure our iconic orchid flora can be bought back from the brink of extinction in the wild” said Dr Belinda Davis (Orchid Research Scientist, DBCA).

“Poaching of rare orchids hasn’t only occurred in Kings Park. We know threatened orchids have previously been targeted by poachers and illegally taken from the wild. Unfortunately, once plants are removed from their native habitat there is a very low chance of survival due to their intricate and sensitive biological requirements” said Ben Lullfitz (Conservation Officer Blackwood District, DBCA)

Sue McDougall

Director, Kings Park Botanic Garden)

M: 0498 281 712

Dr Belinda Davis

(Orchid Research Scientist, DBCA).

Main photo: Caladenia leucochila (Image: KPBG)

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