Consumer or Producer?

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Well-Known Member
Jun 9, 2006
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Leiper's Fork, TN
Back in the 80's when I was a herp supervisor, I developed a simple "production" index.

Purchases + Mortalities vs. Births/Hatches + Emigrants (sales or gifts).
(strictly as individuals, no $).
I did this to:

1) Assess the CITES argument that zoos were net consumers of wildlife.
2) Justify time and expenses for better cultural methods and materials.
3) Control the rate of new aquisitions by upper management.

When I first started this measure we were about 5:1 (bad), when I left we were <1:1 (good). And we didn't cheat by mass producing fire bellied toads.

Given that orchid growing is a hobby for me, I only mentally ballpark this index to let me know how the collection is going.

Is anyone else out there (especially with a large stable collection) concious of
their "culture" index?
i'm not terribly conscious, and i don't have a large collection, but by my reckening, the score is:
brian 1, great orchid pile in the sky 50....
I'm consciously trying to increase the number of slipper species plants in the world. But I don't know if creating hundreds of Cypripedium pubescens (the fire-bellied toad of slippers?) offsets killing an instance of a less common Paph.

EDIT: I don't even count hybrids in my equation. They don't matter.
I think this is a really important topic, thanks for bringing it up Rick! Obviously, not everyone can breed all of their plants, but hopefully everyone here will try to breed their favorite species (and not just the most expensive ones you own). It doesn't cost anything to breed them... there are people who will do all of your flasking for free (or the price of an extra flask or two).

Personally, I try to breed everything that I can :) The great thing about orchids (compared to Andean Condors, for example) is that you can get out of the Red with just a single seedpod that germinates well. Once I get a little more lab experience, I'm hoping to be able to offer a free flasking service as well.

- Matt Gore
I'd like to breed most of my stuff too, but from watching the index, I also realized that over breeding (causing overcrowding and a strain on paying attention to the rest of the collection) could also have a negative impact on the index. (In the case of the herp it forced the managers to quit buying and start selling).

Also we could count new growths as "production" along with breeding by seed. That could give a more long term view of the plants in our care too for those that don't care to breed.

I don't have allot of hybrids, but I do include them (mentaly) when assesing my to culture program success/failure.

I agree that over-production can be a problem, and indeed with orchids, those of us who breed plants can easily make up for those who don't since so many plants can be produced from a single pod.

My concern is primarily with certain species that are abundant for a while, and then suddenly start to disappear. Paph dayanum is one of these, in the USA. They used to be quite common, and now they are pretty hard to find (as adult plants, anyway). Paph tonsum is the same way, as is Paph parishii. With parishii, the problem seems to stem from slow germination, in large part... but for the others, that isn't the case. They just seem to be un-popular.

It would be nice if people with plants like this would make a couple of flask and then hand out the seedlings to their friends. I know, it's asking a lot of human nature, but I've seen a lot of it going on around here :)

- Matt Gore
It would be nice if people with plants like this would make a couple of flask and then hand out the seedlings to their friends.

Thanks pretty much my M.O. :)
I think randsii is another one that falls into the forgotten category, with maybe even more problems than parishii.

In the zoo biz they also had a Species Survival Program (SSP). With fish they were for a group of species (like Lake Victorian Cichlids). With terrestrials they were with single species. It was kinda like a consortium of interested zoos maintaining and swapping individuals for maximum breeding management.

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