Tree Killer Caught

Back in August I wrote that a number of mature trees in Vancouver had been poisoned by someone who apparently wanted to improve their oceanfront view.

The Vancouver media reports some good news:

"Five trees were poisoned with herbicide along Beach Avenue in Vancouver’s west end. A woman who owned a condo directly opposite them has been charged."

Link: Woman suspected of poisoning beachfront trees appears in court.

Continue reading “Tree Killer Caught”

Blossom bandits

Homeowners in a California town are being plagued by the theft of blooms and even entire plants from local gardens and yards:

‘The police told me that these people steal plants and flowers and then make them into bouquets or arrangements and sell them,’ Byrne said. ‘Other people use them for decorations at parties and weddings. I guess it’s a fairly common thing.’

The nerve of some people is beyond belief. Even my church, St. Stephen-in-the-Fields on College Street West, suffers from this kind of attention. It has gone on so long, parishioners have practically given up trying to keep the garden along the front of the building looking pretty. New plants generally last less than a week before someone in the neighbourhood digs them up and takes them home; some have had the the cheek to dig up half a plant, probably thinking they weren’t doing something quite so bad if they left a bit for the rest of us. I’ve been tempted to sneak in some poison ivy, but I guess that’s not very Christian, is it? 😉 One wonderful lady in the parish hit on the idea of putting native
plants in the garden — grasses, and wildflowers like milkweed. It seems to work; they either grow really fast and fill in the bare spots, or, no one wants them.

I still like my poison ivy idea.

Ontario: A Place to Grow

A very funny video spoof from the CBC – Rick Mercer’s Monday Report.

No doubt this comes out of the recent discovery of a gigantic grow-op inside a former brewery in Barrie, north of Toronto:

“There
aren’t enough people in Ontario to consume the amount of marijuana
produced in (Ontario) grow houses.”, says Ontario Provincial Police
investigator Vaughn Collins.

Thanks for the laugh, Dad!

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. “

Underworld flower economy

In Canada, the only flower that seems to make the news for bootlegging and underworld connections is off the top of a marijuana plant. Russia, a country I associate with the baddest of the bad in organized crime, are busy fighting smugglers of roses, tulips, and chrysanthemums. Go figure!

“Operatives of the economic crime department carried out an operation in the Moscow region, seizing two truckloads of flowers worth 600 thousand dollars.

Investigators have ascertained that roses, chrysanthemums and tulips had been shipped to a reloading point in Lithuania and then transported to Russia.

The smugglers tripped to one of warehouses outside Moscow, from which  businesses delivered the flowers to Moscow’s markets.

According to investigators, the group, which operated for years, registered the businesses through fronts. The sham companies usually disappeared after a month of operation.

Two nationals of Lithuania and four Russians have been detained in  this criminal case and charged with contraband.

Investigators do not rule out the smugglers operated hand in hand with  corrupt customs officials. “

Looting in New Zealand

Trampers and hunters are being asked to help authorities stop the smuggling overseas of New Zealand’s protected wildlife.

“Two Czech men were charged yesterday with taking numerous native orchids and plants from New Zealand national parks and smuggling them out of the country. If found guilty, they face fines of up to $100,000 and/or five years’ jail.

Environmental watchdogs applauded the arrests and said charges relating to the smuggling of flowers and plants were rare. New Zealand has about 35 threatened species of orchids.”

Phrag. Kovachii sites in Peru destroyed

In the December issue of Orchid Digest magazine, Harold Koopowitz wrote an interesting article about his visit to Peru. He and his companions had many adventures travelling through rough terrain to document and photograph a recently discovered patch of Phragmipedium Kovachii, deep in the jungle.

Now comes news from a Peruvian grower that this patch, as with three other locations discovered earlier, has been stripped bare of these magnificent orchids:

“I happened to return to my hotel at lunch time with my friend, Manuel Camacho who is a local orchid enthusiast and guide to the Phragmipedium kovachii sites. We noticed a double cabin pick truck in the door of the hotel. What we saw in this pickup shocked us both and we could not believe what we were seeing!

There were 7 large rice and coffee sacks stuffed full with several hundred of the largest P. kovachii that we have ever seen with leaves fully 2-3 feet long sticking out the tops of the sacks with no attempt to hide them. ”

“In early September, a friend of mine went to the site which Koopowitz visited & photographed only to find it totally wiped out including all visible seedling except for two plants that they saw very high up out of reach on the cliff which is the only reason they are still there. They took photographs of this site as it is today which I am forwarding to Koopowitz for the record. We know who did the deed because he sold several hundred to an Ecuadorian dealer and others to a dealer in Lima. He offered 200 to me which I turned down. ”

****

Full article:
Date: Wed, 24 Dec 2003 14:51:21 +0800
From: “Peter O’Byrne”
To: “OrchidGuideDigest”
Subject: [OGD] Phragmepedium kovachii sites destroyed.

To Tennis and others who think that the only way to “save” orchid species is to rip them out of the wild & then love them to death in the alien and artificial environment of a greenhouse …. congratulations.

You will be overjoyed to read the following. People like you have successfully “saved” P. kovachii from extinction.

The following is the first part of a lengthy posting by Olaf Gruss on the Orchid Spring Discussion Board on Tuesday, December 23. In Olaf’s posting it is not clear which bits (if any) were written by Olaf, and which bits were written by Lee Moore.

—————————————————————-
Dear orchidfriends,

Today I get from a friend a very interesting but also horrible story about Phrag. kovachii. The original mail was written by Lee Moore and send to many orchidists all over the world.

I have just returned from my farm in Moybamba this week and what I am going to relate to you about what I have seen and discovered on this trip will shock and enrage you.

I happened to return to my hotel at lunch time with my friend, Manuel Camacho who is a local orchid enthusiast and guide to the Phragmipedium
kovachii sites. We noticed a double cabin pick truck in the door of the hotel. What we saw in this pickup shocked us both and we could not believe
what we were seeing!

There were 7 large rice and coffee sacks stuffed full with several hundred of the largest P.kovachii that we have ever seen with leaves fully 2-3 feet long sticking out the tops of the sacks with no attempt to hide them. I wanted to take a video or photo but I had left my cameras at the farm and was helpless.

My wife had seen the farmer Faustino Medina hanging around the hotel earlier that and asked why he was here. He just said he came to see some friends. Farmer Faustino is the original discoverer of the P.k and now we know why he was hanging around our hotel. We had heard rumors about a new site being found and now it was confirmed because the previous four sites have been totally wiped out.

This was just a coincidence and a one time chance that we happened to come in while the truck was parked at the hotel to see this contraband. This
makes me wonder how many others that we do not have the chance to see. Since it was Saturday, we could not report this to INRENA to have this man
detained. I took down his license etc. and found out from the hotel reception who he was and where he lived which was Tarapoto. I also learned that he
comes to Moyobamba very often and does the same thing. So he checked out with his truck load of Phragmipedium kovachii and went on his way
with no one to stop him. We went to Tarapoto on Monday to make the denouncement to INRENA about this atrocity. Guess what? All government
offices in Peru had shut down totally until the 6th of January for summer vacations. Only in Peru does things like this happen. The whole government shuts down for 3 weeks… can you believe this?

Anyway, I found that there had an exhibition of the famous new and most ‘valuable’ orchid in the world at a downtown hotel and was featured on
the local TV the week before. Incidentally, INRENA, said or did nothing about this. After investigating this, I found that the exhibitor had been the owner of the pickup truck, Ing. Kenneth Reategui who had a small recreational park and restaurant on the outskirts of town. I went there in hopes of getting some pictures as evidence. After paying my entrance fee of 1 Sol to this abandoned park, I asked the young boy that seemed to be in charge about these new special slipper orchids. He said that Mr. Kenneth brought a lot of them in the other day but has taken them all to Lima to a big orchid dealer in Lima.

Also, we learned that a few weeks after Koopowitz visited the last known site that was teaming with P. kovachii about which he wrote in the Orchidist, a helicopter with cargo boxes on the skids, came in to pick up an unknown large quantity in sacks. The helicopter did not land at the site but picked them up on the road after they had been brought out by ‘orchid enthusiasts’. We have the name of the helicopter company and the registration number that has been reported to INRENA which has done nothing about it. We are trying to investigate this ourselves to find out who chartered that helicopter on that date to make an official denouncement with documentation.

In early September, a friend of mine went to the site which Koopowitz visited & photographed only to find it totally wiped out including all
visible seedling except for two plants that they saw very high up out of reach on the cliff which is the only reason they are still there. They took
photographs of this site as it is today which I am forwarding to Koopowitz for the record. We know who did the deed because he sold several hundred to an Ecuadorian dealer and others to a dealer in Lima. He offered 200 to me which I turned down. He is Jose Mendoza who was the taxi driver that
took Kovach to Progresso when he got his single plant that he took to Selby for identification. We know him well because he has been our
taxi driver for a couple of years until recently when we dispatched him after finding out what he was doing.

Now, a new site has been found by farmer Faustino which also is quickly going the way of the Dodo Bird. These statements are fact and not rumor because we live there and know everyone and almost everything that is going on.

Unfortunately, the Phragmipediium kovachii has had a very sad history since its discovery by farmer Faustino Medina in May a year and a half ago. The
first plants were sold to truck drivers and tourists on the side of the road as pretty flowering plants for less than a dollar. Naturally, they
never would have survived in such hands. Then along came Villena who bought up all she could get her hands on and then Kovach got his single
plant left over after Villena left.

Farmer Faustino had found two sites which were quickly wiped out. My wife was able to get a hold of some of these for our nursery before they were all gone. But these were sabotaged by a local jealous ‘orchid enthusiast’ in an attempt to keep us out of the future market. Most of these died but we were able to salvage a few of these which are growing well now. Then farmer Juan found two more sites which were also quickly wiped out. The second site
being the one that Koopowitz visited and wrote about but is now gone with the wind. And now comes farmer Faustino with another recent find
which will not last very long. I only saw ONE pickup truck load going out. How many more have I not seen and are yet to go out until those
are also wiped out? This last site will not see the New Year!