Wild-Orchid Trade in a Chinese E-Commerce Market. Globally, the unsustainable trade in wildlife has been recognized as a major factor of biodiversity loss. Monitoring and regulating wildlife trade has not been an easy task, and new challenges have been encountered as some of the trade moves onto virtual markets on the Internet. In this study, we carried out a 1-year survey on the most popular online market platform in China, i.e., Taobao.com, and determined the extent and nature of the Chinese virtual wild-orchid trade. This is among the first online studies of richness in the wild-orchid trade. We found that a total of 97 wild-sourced orchid species were offered by 53 online vendors. When the sales data were available and with all species pooled, a total of 90,714 individual plants were sold over the initial 7-month period. Four Cymbidium species were the top-traded species in terms of volume, which reflects the high demand on Cymbidium spp., a group with significance in Chinese culture. During our surveys, we encountered clear indications that the website has developed an algorithm to identify buyers’ location (in this case, the U.S.A.) and disabled the potential cross-border transactions, perhaps in an effort to enforce the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species regulations. However, this enforcement on Taobao.com was applied to only a few species and five genera. The high volume and the potential for cross-border trade occurring on Taobao.com call for stronger collaboration among government agencies, NGOs, and national and international industries. It also calls for more consistent law enforcement measures and the promotion of a voluntary code of conducts among different stakeholders to effectively curb the wild-orchid trade online as well as in physical markets in China and beyond. Domestically, China needs to strengthen its legal protection of wild orchids and effective promotion of modern propagation technique among orchid growers.
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This study was stimulated by conversations regarding the wild-orchid trade with Sophie Williams. We are very grateful to Pankaj Kumar and Bryan Wu for helping unselfishly with orchid identifications. Ms. Jennifer Possley and Dr. Javier Francisco Ortega provided help in map making, and Mr. Dennis Giardina provided English-language editing assistance. A grant from the NSFC (grant no. 31360146) to H. Liu enabled her to carry out wild-orchid conservation research in China.
Received 13 August 2018; accepted 14 April 2019.
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Wong, S., Liu, H. Wild-Orchid Trade in a Chinese E-Commerce Market. Econ Bot 73, 357–374 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-019-09463-2
- endangered plants
- horticultural trade
- online trade
- rare plants
- wildlife trade