NORTH LAKHIMPUR, April 17 � Spurt in wildlife trafficking in Lakhimpur district has threatened to wipe out some exotic flora and fauna found mostly in the reserve forests along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. Exotic orchids too are being pilfered in large numbers by local collectors from outside Assam.
Trafficking in wildlife and exotic flora has been on for quite a quite sometime now along the inter-State border areas of the district. With the advent of Spring and the blooming of wild orchids, smuggling activities are on the rise, thus threatening the existence of some of the most rare and priceless wild orchids in this area.
During a recent investigation, this correspondent found a huge amount of wild orchids uprooted from its host tree and dumped near a school in Lakhimpur district.
The incident was witnessed on April 12 at Gomnadi, some 20 kms north-east of North Lakhimpur near Chinatoliyah Tea Estate under Kadam Revenue Circle of Lakhimpur district. A huge chunk of uprooted plants of the exotic Dendrobium transparens and Dendrobium aphyllum was found on a ditch near the Gomnadi LP School, purportedly left behind by the illegal collectors. Local villagers say that some young boys are being engaged by the orchid traffickers to collect the flowers from the neighbouring jungles and hills and are paid Rs 200/- per kg. The collected orchids are subsequently sold for Rs 500/- per kg to buyers who come from outside Assam.
Both these species are considered among the most ornamental orchids of this region. Dendrobium orchids are used in traditional Chinese medicine and its main effective ingredients (polysaccharides and alkaloids) have pharmacologic effects on gastritis infection, cancer and anti-aging. Therefore, this orchid has been trafficked from Assam for its demand in the East Asian traditional medicine industry. The orchid resources of this region, i.e., on the Himalayan foothills is depleting every year due to habitat loss and facing extinction under intense biotic pressures like jhum cultivation, forest fires, indiscriminate collection and illegal trade by the local traffickers.
On the same day, a team of conservationists from Green Heritage led by wildlife warden Bikul Goswami found most of the orchids missing from their naturally-growing areas in the nearby Deergha forest, i.e., during the peak season of their blooming. This was attributed to largescale trafficking of orchids by the local peddlers, who also collect exotic wildlife like branded krait snakes and other reptiles for sale in the illegal market outside. The ongoing trafficking of exotic wild orchids along the inter-State border region of Lakhimpur district not only criminalises the local people, but also threatens the extinction of many wild species in the forest areas which once were full of flora and fauna.