Poachers Skip Animals For … Plants?

August 20, 2021

Why Are People Poaching Conophytum?

Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

South Africa & Conophytum

South Africa is home to many wild animals, but did you know that it’s also home to a special kind of succulent plant, called Conophytum? The Conophytum isn’t a new plant and, until recently, it wasn’t even a popular one. It grew in abundance in South Africa until a recent international wave of interest in the plant meant people started stealing and selling them in bulk to enthusiastic buyers around the world. Thought poaching just applied to wildlife? Think again! Conophytum poaching in South Africa is a big problem.

Why Is It Difficult To Track Plant Poachers?

Tracking down Conophytum poachers in South Africa can be quite tricky. Why?

  1. The areas in which these succulents grow are vast and there aren’t enough personnel to track the thefts.
  2. Raising awareness about poaching is harder with plants than with animals.
  3. Poachers invade botanical gardens and large supplies of plants and even when the criminals are caught, keeping up with replanting the succulents can be tough.

What Now?

In an effort to save Conophytum from extinction, the authorities who police the theft of wildlife are now shifting their focus to plants.