Orchids are among the most traded wildlife in the world and represent >70% of CITES-listed species. Many species are also used medicinally, including in Ayurvedic and Chinese pharmacopeia–important to health, culture, livelihoods, and commerce. This includes many rural communities in Nepal. However, there is little understanding about this trade (e.g., its scale, species targeted, economic importance), and its implication for the long-term conservation of Nepal’s >500 orchid species. We know that many orchids are highly sensitive to overharvest and that illegal trade has led to concerns globally. This is detrimental not only to biodiversity but also to the livelihoods of rural communities and local involvement in resource management.
Nepal and Mexico are the only known countries that are attempting to formally manage a legal, sustainable trade of wild orchids by local communities. This faces many challenges: there are legal ambiguities in Nepal’s shifting legislations; there is scientific uncertainty about the sustainability of different harvest regimes; species identification is challenging, and illegal trade is hard to manage. In response, with the support of the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) Challenge Fund, Greenhood Nepal and its partners Lancaster University, University of Oxford, IUCN SSC Orchid Specialist Group, University of Hawaii are exploring the trade and conservation of wild orchids in Nepal with the financial support of the UK government.
A half-day workshop on “Illegal trade and sustainable use of medicinal orchids of Nepal” was organized on 30 March 2021 at Hotel Everest, in Kathmandu, Nepal. The workshop aimed to bring together a small but diverse group of stakeholders (academe, government, civil society, private sector, orchid enthusiasts, media) to help inform efforts in controlling illegal trade and sustainable use of wild medicinal orchids in Nepal.