According to the report, wide expanses of the Southern Highlands region of Tanzania where the orchids occur remain unexplored biologically. However, initial surveys show that the region contains a significant portion of the nations biodiversity, much of it in the form of plant life. To help protect this region, WCS is currently pushing to turn a key area of the Southern Highlands, called the Kitulo Plateau, into a national park. If established, the park will be one of the first protected areas in tropical Africa to be gazetted primarily on the merits of its floral significance.
But the plateau is currently under intense orchid harvesting pressure. The report says that up to 85 species are being rapidly depleted for use in chikanda or kinaka, a delicacy in which the root or tuber of terrestrial orchids is the key ingredient in a type of meatless sausage. Though the food has declined in popularity in Tanzania, it has become increasingly prevalent in neighboring Zambia, subsequently fueling a booming international commercial market.
Millions of orchids are being virtually strip-mined from Tanzanias Southern Highlands, said WCS conservation biologist Tim Davenport. At current rates, many species will be wiped out in a matter of a few years.
All orchid species are protected by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), which requires certification of plants crossing international borders. However, scant knowledge of the trades existence, and a subsequent lack of enforcement of CITES rules, has led to truckloads of
Contact: Stephen Sautner
Wildlife Conservation Society