Purwodadi – BRIN Public Relations. Pouch Orchid, also often called Slipper Orchid is the nickname given to orchids from the genus Paphiopedilum. The nickname is widely known because Paphiopedilum has petals resembling a sac or a slipper. The uniqueness of its shape is one of the reasons why it attracts orchid collectors, especially foreign collectors.

But behind its beauty, pouch orchid is also known as one of the most endangered groups of orchids in Indonesia. Threats to its sustainability mainly come from excessive harvesting activities in nature (overcollection) and also decrease in the quality of their natural habitat (habitat degradation). Therefore, in the absence of an appropriate conservation strategy, the natural population of many Paphiopedilum species will presumably continue to decline.

As the threat is too massive, all species of Paphiopedilum originating from nature have been included in the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) appendix 1. This orchid is not permitted to leave its country of origin unless for non-commercial and research purpose, in such case it must be accompanied by official permits and very strict supervision from the government. In addition, the Paphiopedilum orchid is the largest genus of orchids (15 species in total) which is included in the list of protected orchids based on Regulation of the Minister of Environment No. 106 of 2018.

Orchid Conservation Research

Indonesia has about 38 species of Paphiopedilum spreading from Sumatra to Papua. High diversity of Paphiopedilum orchids and their endangered status has made researchers and orchid conservation activists from various countries pay special attention to efforts to preserve Paphiopedilum orchids in Indonesia. For this reason, in 2021, the Research Center for Plant Conservation and Botanical Gardens conducted research entitled ‘Baseline Study on Paphiopedilum (Orchidaceae) Conservation Strategies in Indonesia’.

“This research is primarily aimed at gathering basic information in the context of formulating a conservation strategy for Paphiopedilum orchids in Indonesia,” explained Destario Metusala, leader of the research team for Paphiopedilum Orchid – Purwodadi Botanical Garden – BRIN. Destario further explained that this research is also an effort to explore opportunities for making conservation efforts by collaborating with orchid hobbyists in Indonesia.

In general, he explained, the results of research activities show that the natural habitat of several Paphiopedilum orchid species is getting narrower and threatened by land use conversion, especially for plantations. In addition, according to him, in certain species the threat to sustainability is rising due to excessive harvesting activities in nature.

“The good news is that all orchid hobbyists who were interviewed have shown positive response to support the research and preservation of Paphiopedilum orchids in Indonesia,” said Destario. “Even various related parties, including the hobbyist community, NGOs, academics, and government institutions in the field of natural resource conservation have actively been involved in discussion forums to discuss complicated issues around preservation of orchids,” he added.

Based on the results of study by BRIN research team, the best conservation strategy for the Paphiopedilum Orchid is not only through approaches from the biological aspect. “It is also very important to consider and involve social and economic aspects,” he said.

Basic training on cultivation and conservation insight for hobbyists living around the habitats can be one of the priority programs in 2022, in addition to creation of database of orchid hobbyists that can be accessed by researchers and academics. This will facilitate multi-stakeholder interactions in encouraging real research activities and Paphiopedilum orchid conservation in various regions. “This is important, considering the rate of degradation of the quality of Paphiopedilum habitat which is so fast, that research and rescue activities need to be accelerated,” he said.

Ideally, conservation efforts need to get supports from various parties, including ordinary people or orchid hobbyists. There are some simple things that the public and orchid hobbyists can do to support preservation of Paphiopedilum orchids in Indonesia. “For example, people should find in depth information about an orchid species before deciding to buy/keep it,” he said.

This information, he said, includes the characteristics of its cultivation such as the altitude of its natural habitat, the need for wind circulation, the need for humidity, or the tolerance range of light intensity. “Many Paphiopedilum species whose habitat is limited to highland areas above 1,200 m above sea level. Their cultivation in lowland areas with hot temperatures can increase the risk of death of these orchids,” he explained.

In addition, Destario explained, the public can avoid buying natural plucked orchids that have not been sufficiently nurtured or insufficient period of adaptation by the seller. People can also buy only Paphiopedilum orchids as a result of in vitro culture (often referred to as bottled seeds). “Generally, orchid seeds from in vitro culture show better adaptability and growth than those obtained from natural extraction,” he explained.

The roadmap for preservation of Paphiopedilum orchids in Indonesia is a long step that cannot be completed in only 1-2 years of research. Therefore, these activities will continue to be carried out by opening the widest possible collaboration with both domestic and foreign parties. (frw/ ed: drs)