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Orchid Specialist Group Meeting

The Orchid Specialist Group (SSC/IUCN) convened at 9:00 a.m. on 20 September 1996 during the 15th World Orchid Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.

Eric Hágsater chaired the meeting and welcomed OSG members Vinciane Dumont (Deputy Chair), Dr. J. Arditti (USA), Dr. J. T. Atwood (USA), Dr. P. J. Cribb (UK), Dr. R. L. Dressler (USA), Ms. Cordelia Head (USA), Mr. A. Hirtz (Ecuador), Dr. H. Koopowitz (USA), Mr. G. McCraith (Australia), Dr. A. A. O. Morrison (UK), Mr. N. Nash (USA), Mr. M. H. C. Ooi (Malaysia), Dr. A. M. Pridgeon (UK), Dr. R. Sagarik (Thailand), Mrs. J. Stewart (UK), and Dr. K. W. Tan (Singapore). The chair also welcomed guests Mr. L. Abdul (Malaysia), Ms. M. Disher (Canada), Mr. W. K. Ho (Malaysia), Mr. A. K. Jaafar (Malaysia), Ms. M. T. Lecumberri (Argentina), Ms. M. I. Sánchez (Argentina), Dr. J. W. Thomas (Canada), and Mr. Y. Ueda (Japan).

Presentation of the Orchid Action Plan, titled Orchids: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan.

The Chair presented the recently published Orchid Action Plan (and the first plant Action Plan) to members and guests. Copies of the Plan were distributed to those present with the request to promote and further distribute it. Although the copyright of the Plan is held by the IUCN, it may be reproduced in whole or part for educational and other non-commercial purposes and indeed may soon be scanned for the World Wide Web. Sincere thanks were offered to member Mme. Meta Held, the Stiftung zum Schutze und der Erhaltung wildwachsender Orchideen, the IUCN/SSC Sir Peter Scott Action Plan Fund, and other institutions for financial support.

The Deputy Chair suggested that copies of the Plan should be distributed in person with information on its content and use rather than simply placed in the mail. The Chair added that orchid societies should purchase a copy and that the American Orchid Society will have 300 copies for sale. The Plan is being sent to all major journals for review as well.

Some recommendations of the Plan were discussed at length. One of these is to identify areas of high biodiversity and endemicity (including insect pollinators) and to work with other conservation groups to learn how such areas can be legally conserved. It was agreed that the OSG should solicit information on specific areas with high endemicity, relying on maps of concentrated life zones (as in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve of Costa Rica) prepared by the World Wildlife Fund and on GIS technology (as used by member Dr. D. Du Puy in Madagascar) to identify forests that are not now protected. The recommendation to establish a paid Secretariat to implement the proposals of the Plan cannot be adopted until funds can be found to support the position.


Some debate developed on the philosophy and strategies of reintroductions or orchids. Dr. Koopowitz argued that reintroduction should not be undertaken without a prior understanding of the genetics of the natural populations concerned. Dr. Cribb and Mrs. Stewart reminded the OSG of the success of the Sainsbury Orchid Project in replacing 5,000 plants in the wild, including some of Cypripedium calceolus, but noted the expense in doing so. Ms. Head suggested that reintroduction can be wildly misinterpreted by hobbyists, some of whom will place anything back in the wild. The Chair summed up the discussion by stating that the OSG is not in favour of the wholesale reintroduction of orchids, particularly foreign and cultivated species.

Conservation Code Update

Dr. Cribb proposed the establishment of a subcommittee to review the Orchid Conservation Code, now 10 years old, modify it, and put it on the World Wide Web. Mrs. Stewart added that hobbyists are now more aware of conservation and raising orchids from seeds. Rather than try to modify an outdated Code, a subcommittee chaired by Mrs. Stewart and comprising Mr. Morrison, Dr. Koopowitz, Mr. Ooi, Mr. Hirtz, and Mr. Nash was charged with producing a new draft to be circulated among OSG members for comments.

Intellectual Property

Mr. Hirtz raised the issue of Latin American governments claiming intellectual property for genetic material from their respective countries, which threatens to restrict propagations. Mrs. Stewart countered by saying that the Royal Horticultural Society distributes 300,000 packets of seeds to its members with provenance from many countries, but that the seeds, regardless of origin, are products of the RHS garden. Ms. Head observed that it would be unprofitable for nurseries to propagate and distribute orchids if they have to pay royalties. A working group was established to identify the problem and produce a draft of recommendations, to be chaired by Mr. Morrison and including Mrs. Stewart, Dr. Cribb, Mr. Nash, and Mr. Hirtz.


Mr. McCraith appealed for seeds of orchid species to reconstruct the Australian Orchid Foundation's Seed Bank.

The Plant Working Group of CITES will be held in Costa Rica, 6-11 November 1996. Among several items on the agenda will be proposals to downlist some Appendix I species, particularly those that are national flowers. The next CITES meeting will be in Harare, Zimbabwe, from 10-20 June 1997. Some members of the Orchid Specialist Group will be attending.

There will be an orchid conservation symposium at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens from 6-8 June 1997. Among the topics of discussion will be downlisting and salvage efforts.

The next European Orchid Congress will be held in Geneva from 16-20 April 1997.

The 16th World Orchid Conference will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from 23 April-2 May 1999. Its theme will be conservation, and conservation topics will be prominent in the plenary session and poster sessions.

The meeting of the Orchid Specialist Group adjourned at 11:30 a.m.

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