Orchid Smuggling Drama in New Zealand

More details are coming out about the case of the two orchid smugglers recently arrested in New Zealand, and the story is quite interesting.

“Dr. Ian St George, convenor of the New Zealand native orchid group, said word had gone out on their “amateur grapevine” about a suspicious pair of orchid hunters asking to be guided to the flowers since before Christmas. Members were asked not to do so.

Dr St George said there were about 150 native orchids, with about 20 that were “vanishingly rare”.

One,  known as either Corybas or Anzybas Carsei could be found only in one Waikato swamp which he refused to name. Known as the Swamp Helmet, it is about the size of a fingernail, completely dark maroon and is described by Dr St George as “the closest we have to an All Black orchid”. It would be too hard for them to find, given only one man knew the way through waist-deep bog and it was only in flower for two weeks of the year in September.

He had not seen it himself and it has been rarely photographed.

…The type of orchids the men had allegedly smuggled would be a strong pointer to whether any smugglers had received local help. He would be “absolutely disgusted” if they had. “

The two men are from Czechoslovakia, and they are no ordinary common thiefs:

“…Cihalik is dean of the medicine school at the 430-year-old Palacky University in Olomouc. … (He) is a cardiologist specialising in the electrophysiological activity of the heart. He is the author of an extensive electrocardiogram atlas. He is married to a researcher of botanical genetics. His two adult sons are art historians involved in the conservation of cultural monuments.

Smitak is a public servant from Brno, 78km southeast of Olomouc.There he is the chairman of the Society of Tropical Orchid Growers and of the Friends of European Wild Orchids.

The pair have surrendered their passports as part of their bail conditions. “