North Carolina Protects Its Native Venus Flytrap Against Poachers
Government officials and nature conservationists have expressed their concern over the rampant poaching and trafficking of the state's "most famous natural legacy," the Venus flytrap.
Rarely found anywhere else in the world, the meat-eating plant naturally thrives only in a 75-mile radius around Wilmington, where the North Carolina chapter of the Nature Conservancy estimates only 35,000 flytraps remain today.
By law, flytraps can only be sold from private land with the owner's permission. However, poachers have been on a relentless hunt for the carnivorous plant, scouring forests, nurseries, and other state protected areas. Venus flytraps sell in the black market for up to 25 cents apiece. It may seem like a meager price for such trouble, but officials say poachers can effortlessly collect 1,000 to 2,000 of the dime-size plants in just one go, Santa Fe News writes.
"We've got something very precious in the nation here," Sgt. Brandon W. Dean, of the law enforcement division of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission told the New York Times in an interview. "If we don't do something now, it's going to be extinct."
In a conscious effort to discourage Venus flytrap pilfers, in September, a new legislation was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory, which makes illegal poaching of Venus flytrap a felony punishable by up to 25 months in prison. Previous state laws only demand poachers to pay a fine between $10 and $50 dollars per plant, with no jail time.
Because of Governor McCrory's Venus flytrap legislation, a repeat offender who stole 300 Venus flytrap plants from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in August will now serve five and a half months in prison. "We are hopeful that this conviction will serve as a deterrent to others considering illegally taking this special resource," Great Smoky Mountains National Park Chief Steve Kloster told Reuters.
Discovered in 1760 by North Carolina colonial governor, Arthur Hobbs, the Venus flytrap, botanically known as Dionaea muscipula, was dubbed one of the world's most magnificent plants by Charles Darwin.