The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Fauna and Fauna (CITES) and the Orchid Community

An interview with Dr. Phillip Cribb



ON: Dr. Phillip Cribb, you are considered as someone who has a favourable opinion about the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Fauna (CITES). However, in your lecture, you said that it has proved to be a less useful tool than had been supposed. Why?
PC: I am not a defender of CITES but a pragmatist and am concerned about orchid conservation. CITES has been ratified by 170 or so countries and, therefore, that the orchid world needs to work with CITES to make sure that it operates for the benefit of orchid conservation. The nature of CITES whereby it is interpreted and operated differently in many countries has caused problems for horticulturists and scientists. We also see orchid smugglers operating unimpeded when the authorities know what they are doing, there is no justice in that and the rest of us suffer.

ON: In what way could be the CITES be modified to became more efficient?
PC: More uniform implementation and better training for Customs and Management authorities would be a good start.

ON: You also talked about the difficulty found by the scientists when working on listed plants. Don't you think that they should have facilities to get the certificates in order to study the plants? How could it be done?
PC: CITES allows the registration of institutions so that specimens can be exchanged but few institutes in orchid-rich countries are registered, despite their requests to register with their governments. Presumably, those governments are concerned about losing control of the operation. In reality many institutes in developing countries work closely with institutes abroad and their lack of registration seriously impedes their work in identifying material and in providing good information for conservation of native species.

ON: The critics of the CITES mention the inclusion of hybrids. How could an artificial hybrid be in danger?
PC: They were included because Customs officials could not be expected to distinguish between species and hybrids. However, if you have been following recent developments, artificial hybrids of Phalaenopsis, Vanda, Dendrobium and Cymbidium have been delisted from CITES and can be traded legitimately without CITES. Others will surely follow.

ON: Bottled seedlings were removal so they are not subject to CITES restrictions. However a divided plant is considered as artificially propagated and then can be sold even in the international market? It isn't an incoherence?
PC: The exclusion of flasked seedlings was easy to implement. Divisions are less easy to identify. However, they can be legally traded internationally with a CITES certificate. If the hybrid deregulation proceeds as expect, this issue should become less of a problem.

ON: In what way can people interested in orchids (orchid growers or scientists) can help to amend CITES?
PC: By acting responsibly when buying plants. By being represented as observers at CITES Conference of the Parties meetings which are held biennially. By informed lobbying of governments and by providing governments with well-argued cases for improving or changing CITES regulation and implementation.

ON: Do you like to add something?
PC: In the past, the often irrational and ill-informed reaction of the orchid community to CITES and its officials harmed our work to improve CITES for the benefit of the orchid community at large. Constructive views are more helpful than negative ones.

ON: Thank you, Phillip Cribb.

Photo by Sergio Araujo

Any kind of reproduction (print, digital or anyone other) of any type of material of this site - texts, layout, photos, images and others - is strictly forbidden without previous written permission by the authors.