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Monday, January 20, 2003

Collectors are threatening the surival + ecology of wild cacti + rare plant species found in the Chihuahuan Desert located in Mexico and the United States, according to a new study from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network and joint programme of WWF + IUCN.

The Prickly Trade: Trade and Conservation of Chihuahuan Desert Cacti report is the largest-ever analysis of trade in Chihuahuan Desert cacti. The report confirmed that if measures are not taken to regulate harvesting, this unsustainable trade will endanger certain populations in the region, including the living rock, hedgehog + prickly pear cacti.

In the UK and around the world, the use of cacti for low-water landscaping and demand for rare and newly discovered specimens by "cactophiles" is resulting in the heavy and illegal harvest of desirable species, fuelling a multimillion-dollar-a-year industry.

Many consumers + tourists are unaware they may be breaking the law when they collect, purchase or export cacti from countries that restrict these activities. According to the report, Mexican authorities seized nearly 800 cacti from travellers entering or passing through the U.S. from Mexico in 1998.

The report recommends better monitoring of the cactus trade, strengthening protection for the species that are under the most pressure from exploitation, developing community-based programs to harvest common species and commercially cultivate slow-growing species.