Skip to main content

Assessing the extent of access and benefit sharing in the wildlife trade: lessons from horticultural orchids in Southeast Asia

  • AMY HINSLEY (a1) (a2) and DAVID L. ROBERTS (a1)

The equitable sharing of benefits from natural resources is a key target of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Trade in its native species is one way in which a country can potentially benefit from its natural resources, and even small-scale traders can now access global markets online. However, little is known about the extent of benefit sharing for many products, and the extent to which the appropriate processes and permits are being used. We surveyed online trade in a lucrative and widely sold product in Southeast Asia (horticultural orchids) to assess the extent of access and benefit sharing. In total, 20.8% (n = 1120) of orchid species from the region were being sold. Although seven out of ten countries were trading, five had very little or no trade in their native species, and the majority of recently described endemic species being traded from non-range states had no reported Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora exports from their country of origin. We suggest that addressing access and benefit-sharing gaps requires wider recognition of the problem, coupled with capacity building in the countries currently benefitting least: Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. The priority should be to increase botanical capacity and enable these countries to better control the commercialization and trade of their native species.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence: Dr Amy Hinsley email:
Hide All
ASEAN (2013) The Association of Southeast Asian Nations [www document]. URL
Averyanov, L., Cribb, P., Phan Ke, L. & Nguyen, T.H. (2003) Slipper Orchids of Vietnam. Richmond, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Broad, S., Mulliken, T. & Roe, D. (2001) The nature and extent of legal and illegal trade in wildlife. In: The Trade in Wildlife: Regulation for Conservation, ed. Oldfield, S., pp. 322. London, UK: Routledge.
CITES (2013) Numbers of species listed in the CITES Appendices as of October 2013 [www document]. URL
CBD (1992) Convention on Biological Diversity. Adopted 5 June 1992, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil [www document]. URL
CBD (2002) Decision VI/9, Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, 2002–2010. Sixth Ordinary Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 6). The Hague, The Netherlands [www document]. URL
CBD (2012) Decision X/17, Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, 2011–2020. Tenth Ordinary Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10). Nagoya, Japan [www document] URL
Courchamp, F., Angulo, E., Rivalan, P., Hall, R., Signoret, L., Bull, L. & Meinard, Y. (2006) Rarity value and species extinction: the anthropogenic allee effect. PLoS Biology 4: e415.
Chong, K.Y., Tan, H.T.W. & Corlett, R.T. (2009) A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore. Native, Naturalised and Cultivated Species. Singapore: Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore.
Cockel, C. (2013) Bulbophyllum coweniorum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3 [www document]. URL
Drury, R. (2009) Reducing urban demand for wild animals in Vietnam: examining the potential of wildlife farming as a conservation tool. Conservation Letters 2: 263270.
Dutton, A.J., Hepburn, C. & Macdonald, D.W. (2011) A stated preference investigation into the Chinese demand for farmed vs. wild bear bile. PLoS One 6: e21243.
Entwistle, A., Atay, S., Byfield, A. & Oldfield, S. (2002) Alternatives for the bulb trade from Turkey: a case study of indigenous bulb propagation. Oryx 36: 333341.
FAO (2009) International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the Food and Agricultural Organization [www document]. URL
FloraHolland (2013) Facts and Figures 2013 [www document]. URL
Gordon, I. & Ayiemba, W. (2003) Harnessing butterfly biodiversity for improving livelihoods and forest conservation: the Kipepeo Project. The Journal of Environment & Development 12: 8298.
Gruss, O., Rungruang, N., Yongyouth, Y. & Dionisio, I. (2014) A new and very distinct species of the genus Paphiopedilum from north-Lao is described as Paphiopedilum rungsuriyanum. Orchideen Journal. 2, 1, 111 [www document]. URL
Hajramurni, A. (2011) Indonesia encouraged to grow orchids. The Jakarta Post, 25 October 2011 [www document]. URL
Henne, G. & Fakir, S. (1999) NBI–Ball agreement: a new phase in bioprospecting. Biotechnology and Development Monitor 39: 1821.
Hinsley, A. (2011) Notes on the trade of orchids in the Cardamom Mountains, Pursat and Koh Kong Provinces. Cambodian Journal of Natural History 2011: 1113.
Hinsley, A., Verissimo, D. & Roberts, D.L. (2015) Heterogeneity in consumer preferences for orchids in international trade and the potential for the use of market research methods to study demand for wildlife. Biological Conservation 190: 8086.
Hinsley, A., Lee, T.E., Harrison, J.R. & Roberts, D.L. (2016a) Estimating the extent and structure of trade in horticultural orchids via social media. Conservation Biology 30: 10381047.
Hinsley, A., Nuno, A., Ridout, M., John, F.A.V. St. & Roberts, D. L. (2016b) Estimating the extent of CITES noncompliance amongst traders and end-consumers; lessons from the global orchid trade. Conservation Letters. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1111/conl.12316.
ITC (2014) Trade Map, International Trade Centre, Geneva [www document]. URL
Jepson, P., Ladle, R.J. & Sujatnika, (2011) Assessing market-based conservation governance approaches: a socio-economic profile of Indonesian markets for wild birds. Oryx 45: 482491.
Krigas, N., Menteli, V. & Vokou, D. (2014) The electronic trade in Greek endemic plants: biodiversity, commercial and legal aspects. Economic Botany 68: 85.
Laird, S. & Lisinge, E. (1998) Benefit-sharing case studies: Aristocladus korupensis and Prunus africana. Submission by the United Nations Environment Programme Item 16.3. Presented at: Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Fourth meeting. Bratislava, Slovakia, 415 May 1998.
Lamxay, V. (2009) Case Study on Orchid Exports from the Lao PDR: Recommendations for Using the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to Increase Sustainable Orchid Trade. Cambridge, UK: TRAFFIC.
Lavorgna, A. (2014) Wildlife trafficking in the Internet age. Crime Science 3: 517.
Lybbert, T., Barrett, C. & Narjisse, H. (2002) Market-based conservation and local benefits: the case of argan oil in Morocco. Ecological Economics 41: 125144.
Lyons, J. & Natusch, D. (2011). Wildlife laundering through breeding farms: illegal harvest, population declines and a means of regulating the trade of green pythons (Morelia viridis) from Indonesia. Biological Conservation 144: 30733081.
Malanes, M. (2014) Orchid collecting grows into big business. Inquirer North Luzon, 28 May 2014 [www document]. URL
McGough, N., Roberts, D., Brodie, C. & Kowalczyk, J. (2006) CITES and Slipper Orchids. Richmond, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Protocol, Nagoya (2011) The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Adopted 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan [www document]. URL
Nijman, V. (2010) An overview of international wildlife trade from Southeast Asia. Biodiversity and Conservation 19: 11011114.
Opsahl, T., Agneessens, F. & Skvoretz, J. (2010) Node centrality in weighted networks: generalizing degree and shortest paths. Social Networks 32: 245251.
Phelps, J., Carrasco, L.R. & Webb, E.L. (2014) A framework for assessing supply-side wildlife conservation. Conservation Biology 28: 244257.
Phelps, J. & Webb, E.L. (2015) “Invisible” wildlife trades: Southeast Asia's undocumented illegal trade in wild ornamental plants. Biological Conservation 186: 296305.
Phyu, A.S. (2014) Orchid smuggling putting rare species at risk, warn experts. Myanmar Times, 10 March 2014 [www document]. URL
Roe, D., Milledge, S., Mulliken, T., Mremi, J., Mosha, S. & Grieg-Gran, A. (2002) Making a Killing or Making a Living. Wildlife Trade, Trade Controls and Rural Livelihoods. London, UK: IIED; and Cambridge, UK: TRAFFIC.
Richerzhagen, C. & Holm-Mueller, K. (2005) The effectiveness of access and benefit sharing in Costa Rica: implications for national and international regimes. Ecological Economics 53: 445460.
Richerzhagen, C. (2011) Effective governance of access and benefit-sharing under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Biodiversity and Conservation 20: 22432261.
Sajeva, M., Augugliaro, C., Smith, M.J. & Oddo, E. (2013) Regulating internet trade in CITES species. Conservation Biology 27: 429430.
Schroeder, D. (2007) Benefit sharing: it's time for a definition. Journal of Medical Ethics 33: 205209.
Schuiteman, A. & De Vogel, E. (2000) Orchid Genera of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Leiden, The Netherlands: Nationaal Herbarium Nederland.
Secretariat of the CBD (2008) Access and Benefit-Sharing in Practice: Trends in Partnerships across Sectors. Technical Series No. 38. Montreal, Canada: UNEP.
Secretariats of CITES and the CBD (2016) Notification to the Parties 2016/044. Regional joint preparatory meetings of CITES and CBD representatives prior to the upcoming meetings of the respective Conference of the Parties [www document]. URL
Seidenfaden, G. (1992) The orchids of Indochina. Opera Botanical 114: 1502.
Shirey, P.D. & Lamberti, G.A. (2011) Regulate trade in rare plants. Nature 469: 465467.
Silveira, P., Schuiteman, A., Vermeulen, J., Sousa, A., Silva, H., Paiva, J. & De Vogel, E. (2008) The orchids of Timor: checklist and conservation status. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 157: 197215.
Ten Kate, K. & Laird, S. (2000) Biodiversity and business: coming to terms with the ‘grand bargain’. International Affairs 76: 241264.
Trommetter, M. (2005) Biodiversity and international stakes: a question of access. Ecological Economics 53: 573583.
UNEP-WCMC (2013) A guide to using the CITES trade database. Version 8. October 2013. UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre [www document]. URL
UNEP-WCMC (2017) CITES Trade Database, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, UK [www document]. URL
USDA (2014) Floriculture Crops. 2013 Summary. United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. June 2014 [www document]. URL
Vermeulen, J.J. & Lamb, A. (2011) Endangered even before formally described: Bulbophyllum kubahense n. sp., a beautiful and assumedly narrowly endemic orchid from Borneo. Plant Systematics and Evolution 292: 5153.
Vermeulen, J.J., Phelps, J. & Thavipoke, P. (2014) Notes on Bulbophyllum (Dendrobiinae; Epidendroideae; Orchidaceae): two new species and the dilemmas of species discovery via illegal trade. Phytotaxa 184: 012022.
Vermeylen, S. (2007) Contextualizing ‘fair’ and ‘equitable’: the San's reflections on the Hoodia benefit-sharing agreement. Local Environment 12: 423436.
Viet Nam News (2010) Biotechnology needed for orchid industry. Viet Nam News, 2 October 2010 [www document]. URL
Volk, G. & Richards, C. (2011) Horticultural value of wild genetic resources – introduction to the workshop. HortScience 46: 14361437.
WCSP (2013) World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew [www document]. URL
Williams, S.J., Jones, J.P.G., Annewandter, R. & Gibbons, J.M. (2014) Cultivation can increase harvesting pressure on overexploited plant populations. Ecological Applications 24: 20502062.
Bank, World (2014) World development indicators: 2012 GNI per capita, Atlas method [www document]. URL
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Environmental Conservation
  • ISSN: 0376-8929
  • EISSN: 1469-4387
  • URL: /core/journals/environmental-conservation
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed