Poached Cacti Worth Over $1.2 Million Confiscated to Chile – An Elaborate Rescue Operation

You may look at cacti and succulents as just ordinary plants like any other plant, and may not imagine how expensive they are when poached and black marketed. But a year-long rescue operation that resulted in a successful confiscation of some rare cacti and succulents might be an eye-opener for you regarding how valued these plants are and how they need to be preserved carefully and protected from extinction.

These confiscated succulents and cacti are worth over $1.2 million and were about to be sold on the black market in Italy. They were illegally removed from Chile which doesn’t legally export them.

A collaboration among Cactus and Succulent Plants Specialist Group (CSSG), Association for Biodiversity and Conservation and Italian and Chilean authorities was conducted for around a year to stop several procedures in illegal trade to get the plants back.

These were around 1,035 cacti from genera ‘Eriosyce’ and ‘Copiapoa’, as reported by the Union for Conservation of Nature, and they were confiscated in Italy during two operations by the Environmental Unit of the Carabinieri of Ancona, in February and November 2020. They were brought back to Chile on 19th April.

A special feature of some of these plants is that they were well over a century old. The biggest international cactus seizure just shows that how traffickers may be earing huge money from the illegal trade. At the same time, it also shows how poaching of rare cacti, succulents, orchids and animal-derived products like ivory, rhino horns and many others is posing a great danger to the species.

This is certainly disgusting for any plant-, animal- and nature lover. The president of the Association for Biodiversity and Conservation and a cactus expert herself, Andrea Cattabriga expressed her distress on how a species that has taken millions of years to evolve to be able to survive in the most severe conditions on the planet ultimately has to end its life in this way, just for money.

The Union for Conservation of Nature reported that the confiscated cacti were removed from their natural habitat between 2013 and 2019 and transferred from Huasco, Atacama Region in Chile to Greece through which they got entrance in the European Union from where they were sent to various countries for sale including Asian countries for huge costs ranging from $500 to $1,500.

Cacti and succulents are rare and unique, and hence are much coveted. They have always been highly priced for their low maintenance. Cactus lovers need to thoroughly check whether the cacti and succulents they’re planning to purchase are not smuggled. They should buy only from reliable sellers and nurseries. This way the illegal trade and eventual extinction of these precious plants can be stopped.

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