of the media only;
not an official document.
Scientists meet in Geneva
to discuss global trade in wild plants
Geneva, 11 August 2003 –The Plants Committee of the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is meeting in Geneva from 12 to
15 August to evaluate how to promote the conservation and sustainable
use of rare and valuable wild plants.
Experts representing Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Oceania,
as well as leading scientific institutions and specialized NGOs
will consider how best to regulate trade and promote sustainable
use of orchids, devil’s claw, agarwood, Guaiacum
and other plants valued for their wood, medicinal, ornamental
or other qualities.
The Committee will consider the merits of removing the controls
for artificially propagated hybrids of several genera of orchids.
These hybrids are traded in enormous quantities, with nurseries
producing annually more than 35 million orchid plants, but the
trade itself has no impact on the natural populations. Relaxing
the current controls would allow enforcement officers to focus
on the smuggling of endangered orchids stolen from their natural
habitats. Orchids form the largest family of plants, with over
20,000 species in 750 genera and can be found on all continents.
The devil’s claw (so named because of the peculiar shape
of its seeds) is a medicinal plant native to Botswana, Namibia
and South Africa. It is used in pharmaceuticals for treating arteriosclerosis,
diabetes, hepatitis, and other ailments. An estimated 20,000 southern
African households depend on this plant for their main source
of income. Earnings from harvesting are very low with harvesters
receiving between USD 0.80 and USD 2.10 per dry kilogram of tubers.
Agarwood is a product obtained from various trees of the genus
Aquillaria, which range from Papua New Guinea to Vietnam.
It results from the trees’ reaction to a fungus infection
of the wood. Agarwood is used to produce incense and perfumes,
mainly in the Middle East. High-quality Aquillaria wood
can fetch up to USD 10,000 per kilogram. Only part of the wood
of one in five trees is infected, and agarwood can not be detected
until the tree has been cut down and broken into smaller parts.
This causes indiscriminate cutting, which poses a serious threat
to the species survival.
The Committee will also discuss issues relating to the identification
and management of Guaiacum, a genus of three or four tree
species from Central America. It is mainly traded for its greenish
coloured wood and its medicinal properties.
Note to journalists: For further information please contact
Laurent Gauthier at +41-22-7919442/41 or email@example.com.
For official documents see www.cites.org/eng/com/pc/index.shtml.
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