Humans have always used wild animals and plants for their products, such as fruits and seeds for food, skins for clothing, wood for fires etc.

Case History - Plants

Although they are extremely important, and often beautiful, living organisms, plants are often overlooked when considering endangered species - animals usually attract more media attention. However, many thousands of species of plants need our help to prevent them from becoming extinct. Many commercial plants are grown in plantations or nurseries, but a large amount are still taken from the wild. Examples are the tropical hardwood trees, orchids, snowdrop bulbs, cacti and carnivorous plants, such as Venus flytraps. All these plants are removed from the wild either by the timber trade or for use as house and garden plants.

Trade laws
There are about 200 plants species listed on Appendix I by CITES. There are thousands more, including all orchids and cacti, on Appendix II. However, enforcement of the law is poor in most countries and many customs officers are not able to identify species in a shipment. Up to date, CITES has managed to list the Caribbean and Central American mahoganies on Appendix II, but fierce opposition by Brazil, Peru and Bolivia has prevented the Brazilian mahogany from also being listed - these countries have 90% of these remaining mahogany trees. The most commercially sought after mahogany, Swietenia macrophylla, or Big Leaf Mahogany, is still being exploited and is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. Japan is the biggest consumer of timber and living plants are sold mainly in North America, Europe and Japan.

The future
Various conservation organisations are either investigating the trade in plants or funding field projects. The charity 'Plantlife' has been set up specifically to save plants.

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