Thieves steal 900 rare orchids from Perth’s Kings Park and Botanic Garden

Up to 900 of Western Australia’s rarest orchids have been stolen or destroyed in a devastating blow to botanists who have spent years cultivating them.

The orchids, an endangered species, were taken from a conservation garden at Perth’s Kings Park and Botanic Garden, where visitors can see rare plant species.

The majority of the garden’s plantings of 400 Carbunup king spider orchids and 500 Collie spider orchids were taken or destroyed.

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Botanists falter considering how rare they are in the wild. They are only found in a very limited part of Western Australia, with global wild population estimates of just 280 for the Carbunup king spider orchid and 900 for the Collie spider orchid.

Carbunup king spider orchids are only naturally occurring in a very limited part of Western Australia. Credit: AAP

It is feared that the loss of the exhibition plantings, which were the result of four years of hard work, could increase the pressure to visit the few specimens left in the wild.

“These plants have been the public face of a much larger translocation and conservation effort to ensure our iconic orchid flora can be bought back from the brink of extinction in the wild,” said orchid expert Dr. Belinda Davis from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Authorities say threatened orchids are targets for poachers, but stolen specimens, particularly those from the wild, rarely survive.

Kings Park Director Sue McDougall says Kings Park has always been easily accessible. She initially did not comment on what additional security measures might be necessary in the future.

If the thieves are caught, they face severe penalties. Any person illegally taking endangered species can be fined up to $500,000.

The Woolies shopper’s spooky broccolini find.

The Woolies shopper’s spooky broccolini find. Thieves steal 900 rare orchids from Perth’s Kings Park and Botanic Garden

James Brien

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