Social media houseplant craze blamed for devastating succulent poaching across Africa

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A houseplant craze on social media and Asian collectors are driving a devastating wave of illegal succulent poaching across Africa, threatening rare plant species with extinction in the wild.

Botanists claim South Africans and Kenyans are being exploited by foreign criminals to dig up hundreds of rare African species to supply voracious Asian, European and North American demand.

“The Asian market for these plants is insatiable. It is gigantic,” said Dr Cornelia Klak, from the department of biological sciences at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

“There is a collecting mania. People want these wild plants which can grow for up to a hundred years. They are being taken out by local people, some of whom have lost jobs throughout lockdown. 

“They are cleaning out the populations, including all the very, very old plants. This is the tragedy; they are not just picking off the seeds.”

Experts said that the plant smugglers, primarily from China and South Korea, scout out rare plant locations on the continent before paying locals low wages to dig them up before shipping them to Asia. Often the plants are fed into the international market through major hubs such as Amsterdam, they said.

Read more via The Telegraph