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Wild-Orchid Trade in a Chinese E-Commerce Market


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.,, 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 was applied to only a few species and five genera. The high volume and the potential for cross-border trade occurring on 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.


中国野生兰花淘宝网络交易调查. 在全球范围内,不可持续的野生动植物贸易被认为是生物多样性丧失的主要因素。监测和管理野生动植物贸易并非易事,并且随着一些贸易进入互联网上的虚拟市场,遇到了新的挑战。在这项研究中,我们对中国最受欢迎的在线市场平台,淘宝网,进行了为期一年的调查,并确定了中国网络野生兰花贸易的范围和性质。这是野生兰花贸易丰富性的首批在线研究之一。我们调查的53家在线供应商共出售97种野生兰花品种。在最初调查的七个月有销售量数据可查,在这期间将所有物种的销售量汇合这些商家总共销售了90,714株野生兰花个体植株。就交易量而言,兰属植物四种国兰是交易量最大的种类,这反映了消费者对兰属里国兰的需求量很大。兰属的国兰是一个在中国文化中具有重要意义的群体。在我们的调查中,我们发现淘宝网站已经开发出一种算法来识别买方的位置(比如我们调查的地点是美国),并可能是作为执行“国际濒危物种贸易公约”而终止了潜在的跨境交易。但是,淘宝网的这种执法仅体现在少数几个兰科物种(5个属)的交易中。鉴于淘宝上的大量交易和跨境交易潜力,我们呼吁政府机构,非政府组织和国内外行业加强合作,采取更加一致的执法措施,推动兰花买卖相关各方的行为准则,有效遏制中国境内外的网络和实体市场的兰花贸易。中国需要加强对被过度采集植物的法律保护,并在兰花种植商群体里有效地推广现代繁殖技术。.

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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.

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Correspondence to Hong Liu.

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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).

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Key Words:

  • endangered plants
  • horticultural trade
  • online trade
  • rare plants
  • wildlife trade
  • ethnobotany