Cultivate awareness that picking endangered wild plants is a crime
Sorbus cibagouensis sp. nov. (A) wild plant, (B) flower, (C) type specimen. Photographed by Zhao Mingxu.[Photo/onlinelibrary.wiley.com]
The man picked three boat orchids, an endangered species, and was detained by the local forest police for a week. If, as he said, he thought they were weeds, it must have come as a shock to the farmer that the plants he dug up on his way home could land him in prison, as he received a three-year prison sentence, suspended for three years, and a 3,000 yuan fine, besides his weeklong detention.
He claims he did not know what he had taken from the ground is endangered, and that he did not mean to cause any trouble, which if true means he has good reason to question his penalties.
If he was genuinely unaware that the plant was endangered, the farmer paid too high a price for being unfamiliar with a law that is probably not known to many.
Cases like this might be able to teach the public about some little-known offenses that can put people behind bars.
The plant is not on the list of wild plants or precious trees under State-level protection. It can only be found in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to which China is a signatory.
There is no doubt that the local forest police did their job by detaining the farmer for collecting the rare orchids. But the local forest authorities should inform residents and visitors which plants are endangered and not to be touched, along with their possible whereabouts to the public.