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The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Areas of natural beauty and rare wildlife are being increasingly seen as rich pickings for criminals"
 real 56k

Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Thieves target bog orchid
Bog Orchid
The orchid was the last one in Norfolk
A rare orchid has become extinct in Norfolk after thieves stole the last remaining example.

The bog orchid was taken in a night-time raid which police say was well planned.

It follows the theft of three similar plants last year.

It is thought the plant was stolen to order for its commercial value.


One selfish act has quite probably spelled the end for this unusual plant here in Norfolk

Alex Cruikshank

The bog orchid (Hammarbya paludosa) has been the subject of considerable conservation effort in recent years.

They are more commonly found in the wetter west and north of the country.

The plant is specially protected under UK law and it is an offence to pick it or dig it up.

Alex Cruikshank, a Norfolk Wildlife Trust Warden, said: "I can't understand the motivation of wildlife thieves.

Commercial value

"One selfish act has quite probably spelled the end for this unusual plant here in Norfolk."

To a private collector the orchid could be worth anything from hundreds to thousands of pounds.

Mr Cruikshank found lengths of dowel near the site which had been used to mark the orchid's location before the raid.

Wildlife crime

The site is an isolated and inaccessible one and it is thought that the plant could only have been spotted after a thorough search.

Val Bowers, from Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said the incident marked the latest in an increasing number of wildlife thefts in the area.

"It's very hard to protect a plant" she added.

"We were doing regular patrols but we will just have to step up security measures in future."

Experts say it is unlikely the stolen plant can be propagated as work between the wildlife trust and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew to achieve this has been unsuccessful.

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See also:

18 Feb 01 | Scotland
Plant thefts growing warn police
16 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
UK targets wildlife smugglers
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