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LostInPeru

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Just finished reading the book and although it was a well researched read have to wonder how true the story from Kovach's perspective is considering the main characters Kovach and Moore were attempting to make money from selling Phragmipedium kovachii which is the impression I got from the book. It seems they got away with whatever really was going on behind the facade of a story they told.
Also stumbled across these pictures of the book release and notice a few characters from the book are featured but am kind of deflated by the way nobody seems serious about the whole thing. I mean Moore contributed to wiping this orchid out in the wild and he is being celebrated as this great person and invited to the book signing. Kind of an insensitive move on Pittmans part. I mean Moore (should be spelled More) wiped out a entire species for what? A few thousand dollars at most? Moore is holding a copy of the book as if it is some trophy to be proud of, just really ticks me off to be honest.

http://randompixels.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/orchids-and-true-crime-come-together-at.html

Although I can see Christensen's point about naming the orchid after Peru, but to my mind after naming a whole orchid genus after himself, I have to wonder what his motivation was to single out this one orchid when he could have named the genus he discovered after it's country of origin instead of calling it Christensonia. He was patronizing Selby and other botanical taxonomic institutions for acting like colonialists against developing countries in their attitudes towards taxonomical nomenclature but can't help but wonder why he decided to put his name on a orchid from Vietnam after all the atrocities his country the United States had already committed towards that country. Kind of smacks of double standards. Find a link about his genus below.

http://catsandcatts.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/mini-marvels.html

Sure I found the adventurous Moores escapades fun to read, but in reality think Pittman didn't really emphasize the part they and associates had in pretty much making kovachii populations in the wild a genetic desert by removing so many to the point the plant is for all intensive purposes extinct in the wild. I'm no scientist but from the numbers I have read were coming out of Peru my conclusion would be that the genetic viability of the populations will never recover, but what do I know.

I found myself confused by the environmental lawyer Colbourn who sided with the Moores despite their representing everything she was fighting against. The fact Colbourn knew nothing of the taxonomy world was strange considering her job was so specialized and I can't help but wonder why she never realized the orchid could be renamed but only within a stipulated time frame and why she never brought this into the legal argument is something I will never understand.

In a way I kind of feel Pittman is exploiting kovachii also, in a way, and the fact their is also another book with the same name, from 2004, can't help but make me wonder if he borrowed the title the way Kovach borrowed the orchid. For me the message of this story was one where self interest of individuals lead to the extinction of the greatest orchid find which just happened to be in our modern recent times and the greed expressed by everyone from the orchid scientists, governments and poachers left me feeling completely hopeless and sad at the end.

This book would make a entertaining movie, with the drama of the characters juxtaposed against the dramatic backdrop of Peru I could see it being a breathtaking ride with some amazing cinematic opportunities but wonder if the high drama will overshadow the real story here which is that of the loss of a completely new species in such a short period of time due to carelessness of people to take the theft of a flower seriously.

Although no matter how many books or movies are made, no matter how many kovachii are sold by business people, I can't help but wonder if any of those profits will make their way back to the place where kovachii comes from, to help set up a national park to protect whatever remains of it in the wild, and to relive the poverty of the people living in the local area. I could see a natural forest walk that incorporated wild Phragmipedium kovachii as a sustainable tourist attraction could be a viable option if only money was available for such a thing. I believe to protect nature we can't just isolate ourselves from it but have to make it accessible to people, to a certain point, while also ensuring it is not harmed or poached. But I think if more people could appreciate this orchid in it's natural setting they would not feel a desire to illegally steal it, but maybe that is just me being naive.

Sure their is the existing Alto Mayo national park but nothing has been designated specifically for Phragmipedium kovachii. Actions speak louder than words, and in this case it seems nobody has given the local area or people a second thought. I'm surprised INRENA didn't set up a scheme whereby all the sales of kovachii somehow contributed something back to the local area to help protect the habitat. I'm also surprised Pittman didn't think of doing something similar with his book. Actions certainly speak louder than words for me.

I found I couldn't relate to any of the characters, they all seemed to contradict themselves and nobody really seemed to care about the plight of the wild Phragmipedium kovachii at all, beyond talking about conserving it with idle talk, nobody ever did anything about the words they said. Also the whole mechanism for the way CITES works seems to be only to fulfill self interest and act in a favorable way towards the orchid specialist who was involved with writing the flora part. Kind of hard to take that treaty seriously after reading this book when governments don't bother to train their customs staff on how to identify different orchids- what are they paying them for then? Everyone in the governments were just full of excuses in the end and nobody took the theft of this flower seriously. 'It's only a flower' so many people would exclaim, but it is so much more than just a flower, it is the principles and rules behind it that govern the very foundations of a lawful society that were to me under attack and eroded by complacency and an inability to recognize this was a serious matter.

At end how so many of the characters suddenly lost the orchid interest and moved on just showed their true colours.

So what were other peoples opinions of the book?
 
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gonewild

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P.kovachii is not extinct in the wild. The collectors only depleted a couple areas. The species exists in other locations.

The people that live in the area are not poor. Giving them money from sales would not improve their lives.

Creating a National Park for kovachii species would not protect the plants nor would many tourists take the extreme hike to see the plants. There really are not tourists in the area during the blooming season.

Christensen wanted to name the species to honor Peru because it was such a significant discovery, it is not really hypocritical of him to argue that just because he also named plants after himself.
 

LostInPeru

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P.kovachii is not extinct in the wild. The collectors only depleted a couple areas. The species exists in other locations.

The people that live in the area are not poor. Giving them money from sales would not improve their lives.

Creating a National Park for kovachii species would not protect the plants nor would many tourists take the extreme hike to see the plants. There really are not tourists in the area during the blooming season.

Christensen wanted to name the species to honor Peru because it was such a significant discovery, it is not really hypocritical of him to argue that just because he also named plants after himself.

Thanks for the insight and much needed perspective from someone who lives in Peru. I value your opinion. I got the impression the local town was poor but if as you say they are wealthy, which I guess they would be as they are all farmers who own lots of land, then I can't help but feel they are just greedy and deserve no sympathy.

So the Moore's really had no impact on this plant at all then in the vast scheme of things? So Kovachii is not extinct in the wild.I guess in a way if it wasn't for them being the only outsiders to go to that area nobody else would have bothered to travel to that area and actually find out what was there.

I have to wonder then if it is not endangered in the wild, what all the fuss was about. To me the legal teams didn't have a leg to stand on and everything they used as evidence was just rumors. They actually had no physical proof tying Kovach to the orchid at all and don't see how they were able to make a case against him. I think someone high up in the government or possibly CITES wanted to make an example of Selby/Botanical institutions for their own self interest and the case against Michael Kovach actually had nothing to do with him or the orchid at all. New species are discovered everyday and nobody cares. Sure it was a significant find and I can see how Christensen thought the taxonomy community had a responsibility to honor Peru.

Although I can't help but feel it was Christensen who stirred up this whole mess and created a case against Kovach and caused a lot of problems for otherwise innocent people like Lowman.

I'm still confused as to what the whole blown out of proportion drama was about. Seems it was just a story newspapers picked up to sell papers.
 
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gonewild

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I got the impression the local town was poor but if as you say they are wealthy, which I guess they would be as they are all farmers who own lots of land, then I can't help but feel they are just greedy and deserve no sympathy.

You might look at the local people and think they are poor. If you gauge poor by the amount of monetart wealth they have then yes they are poor. BUT they don't give a damn about monetary wealth. They have the wealth of their crops which they eat. They have their homes made of stone and dirt floors, but they don't need a house of another sort. Ask them if they are poor and they won't know what you mean. they live their lives just as their ancestors have. They work hard, they raise families and live goes on.... poor they are not, happy they are.

So the Moore's really had no impact on this plant at all then in the vast scheme of things?

It is a huge area and there are many canyons that it is basically impossible to get to. So no in the vast scheme they had no major impact.

I guess in a way if it wasn't for them being the only outsiders to go to that area nobody else would have bothered to travel to that area and actually find out what was there.

It is not easy to hike through the area. Actually most places are so steep it is impossible. So only something of great monetary value makes it worth the effort.

I have to wonder then if it is not endangered in the wild, what all the fuss was about. To me the legal teams didn't have a leg to stand on and everything they used as evidence was just rumors.

Well they had published plant descriptions describing the collection. They had the story the defendants used. That stuff was not rumors.

They actually had no physical proof tying Kovach to the orchid at all and don't see how they were able to make a case against him.

He carried the plant out of Peru. Against both Peru and USA law. He transported a CITES1 species across International borders without permits, that is a criminal offense.

I think someone high up in the government or possibly CITES wanted to make an example of Selby/Botanical institutions for their own self interest and the case against Michael Kovach actually had nothing to do with him or the orchid at all.

Peru is very protective of their biological assets. Kovach robbed Peru of their treasure. The USA had to enforce the CITES violation to comply with the treaty.

New species are discovered everyday and nobody cares. Sure it was a significant find and I can see how Christensen thought the taxonomy community had a responsibility to honor Peru.

Christensen had Peruvian associates he worked with. He was not working on his own but rather in association with proper Peruvian persons.

I'm still confused as to what the whole blown out of proportion drama was about. Seems it was just a story newspapers picked up to sell papers.

Far more than that. It put a huge dent in illegal orchid trafficking. It was meant to be an example and send a message and it worked.
 
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Eric Muehlbauer

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I loved the book, but my main complaint was the author's attitude that serious paph/phrag collectors valued wild collected plants over plants bred in cultivation. That only applies to plants discovered post-CITES, when there are no other sources. And even then, illegal as it was, I think most US collectors who obtained hangianum etc preferred the cultivated ones bred in Taiwan over anything collected.
 

LostInPeru

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Far more than that. It put a huge dent in illegal orchid trafficking. It was meant to be an example and send a message and it worked.

I kind of don't agree. Nobody went to jail and even the person who did get the blame ended up comfortably under house arrest. To me the penalties were not serious and don't really seem a deterrent in my eyes. But as you say they worked but come across as laughable to me.

He carried the plant out of Peru. Against both Peru and USA law. He transported a CITES1 species across International borders without permits, that is a criminal offense.

To me CITES is a joke as you can get a wild collected plant with full CITES permit and have it be legal. CITES is only as useful as the corrupt governments that facilitate it. I'm certain a lot of plants that are circulating as having full CITES permits and documentation are actually wild collected plants. I'm also sure that goes for flask plants exported that are said to be the progeny of plants collected under INRENA's CITES rules as everyone knows INRENA was compromised by bad eggs and has no legitimacy in my eyes. Anyone with intelligence and half a brain knows having proper documentation means nothing. As for US law makers the judge decided not to jail Kovach becasue he thought the jails were over crowded, their is nothing consistent or professional about that decision. I have no respect for such laws if thats the way they are going to be carried out by the people who decide the fate of those who break them. If judges don't want to take the theft of a flower seriously then I don't see why anyone else should either.

Peru is very protective of their biological assets. Kovach robbed Peru of their treasure. The USA had to enforce the CITES violation to comply with the treaty.

I find it funny that someone with no power or influence in international government like Kovach managed to get the greatest orchid find named after him. Corrupt Peruvians in government robbed Peru of it's treasure, not Kovach. Peru only has it's own people to blame the way I see it. From where I sit all the US government did was talk about protecting stuff and didn't do anything to show they were serious about anything they said. They just put on a show to appease the Peruvians who were bitter and twisted becasue their own corrupt structure let someone else get all their glory and instead of blaming themselves for their mistake tried to put the blame on someone else.

Christensen wanted to name the species to honor Peru because it was such a significant discovery, it is not really hypocritical of him to argue that just because he also named plants after himself.
If Christensen really wanted to honor Peru he would have used his position to contact the Peruvian government and inform them of what was going on and that a new orchid had been discovered and that they must act quickly to get it described. As far as I know he left them in the dark because he wanted to be the first to publish the discovery.
Christensen had Peruvian associates he worked with. He was not working on his own but rather in association with proper Peruvian persons.

Christensen didn't offer to have a Peruvian help him name and describe the new discovery instead doing it all himself from the US. Why not go to Peru and get it published their.If by proper Peruvian persons you mean the seller he told to make a type specimen. I don't understand why Christensen didn't go down to Peru and work with a Peruvian botancial institue to name the plant as a joint venture and put his high position to use and set a example of how new discoveries should be handled to make an example for everyone else in the future to follow. Christensen had admirable intentions but his comtempt for everyone and arrogance blinded him and made him go about this discovery the wrong way and I actually feel sad that he was unable to change the way things are done or make people take CITES seriosuly. He was the only honest one of the whole lot and I so wish he could have described the orchid and had a chance to bring back integrity to both the taxonomy and botany professions.

I loved the book, but my main complaint was the author's attitude that serious paph/phrag collectors valued wild collected plants over plants bred in cultivation. That only applies to plants discovered post-CITES, when there are no other sources. And even then, illegal as it was, I think most US collectors who obtained hangianum etc preferred the cultivated ones bred in Taiwan over anything collected.

The book sure is an adventure that offers everything. I would agree with you if it wasn't for the fact it is so easy for sellers in all countries to fudge that plants are captive raised. But agree serious collectors would value disease free captive bred plants over wild plants.
 
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gonewild

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I kind of don't agree. Nobody went to jail and even the person who did get the blame ended up comfortably under house arrest. To me the penalties were not serious and don't really seem a deterrent in my eyes. But as you say they worked but come across as laughable to me.

Whether they went to jail or not they were punished and are still being punished by having to live with Felony records. That's plenty punishment enough, no need to put someone in jail for swiping a plant.

To me CITES is a joke as you can get a wild collected plant with full CITES permit and have it be legal.

No you can't. You may get false CITES documents but if the plant is collected in the wild it is not legal. Having false documents is an additional crime.

CITES is only as useful as the corrupt governments that facilitate it. I'm certain a lot of plants that are circulating as having full CITES permits and documentation are actually wild collected plants. I'm also sure that goes for flask plants exported that are said to be the progeny of plants collected under INRENA's CITES rules as everyone knows INRENA was compromised by bad eggs and has no legitimacy in my eyes.

INRENA has not likely issued false CITES documents. No doubt people have fake documents from private sources. The fact is INRENA is doing a good job now with their efforts to control CITES protected species, especially in the timber industry for Mahogany.
For that matter all government agencies have bad eggs, USFW is no exception.

Anyone with intelligence and half a brain knows having proper documentation means nothing.

Having PROPER documentation means everything. But proper means legally issued for a qualifying subject.

As for US law makers the judge decided not to jail Kovach becasue he thought the jails were over crowded, their is nothing consistent or professional about that decision. I have no respect for such laws if thats the way they are going to be carried out by the people who decide the fate of those who break them. If judges don't want to take the theft of a flower seriously then I don't see why anyone else should either.

You really think someone should be put in jail for stealing a flower? The taxpayers should spend several hundred thousand dollars to keep a flower thief incarcerated? A monetary fine is plenty.

I find it funny that someone with no power or influence in international government like Kovach managed to get the greatest orchid find named after him. Corrupt Peruvians in government robbed Peru of it's treasure, not Kovach.

Selby Gardens and Kovach are solely responsible. Once the plant left Peru the Peruvian government had no way to recover it without going through the US Court system.

Peru only has it's own people to blame the way I see it. From where I sit all the US government did was talk about protecting stuff and didn't do anything to show they were serious about anything they said.

Really? What should they have done? In the scope of reality it was still just one plant.

If Christensen really wanted to honor Peru he would have used his position to contact the Peruvian government and inform them of what was going on and that a new orchid had been discovered and that they must act quickly to get it described. As far as I know he left them in the dark because he wanted to be the first to publish the discovery.

Christensen worked directly with Peruvians and worked with proper permits from INRENA. The Peruvian government has nothing to do with having a plant described nor are the even a little concerned about a plant being described. But they do expect all people to obey the law and follow the rules.

Christensen didn't offer to have a Peruvian help him name and describe the new discovery instead doing it all himself from the US. Why not go to Peru and get it published their.

There were and are no Peruvian botanists qualified to write the description. Christensen would have had a Peruvian as a co-author on the paper. Going to Peru to do the work would have been counter productive, descriptions need to be done where there is access to botanical specimens and valid library collections, those don't exist in Peru.


If by proper Peruvian persons you mean the seller he told to make a type specimen. I don't understand why Christensen didn't go down to Peru and work with a Peruvian botancial institue to name the plant as a joint venture and put his high position to use and set a example of how new discoveries should be handled to make an example for everyone else in the future to follow.

That is what Christensen was doing, just no need for him to travel to Peru and sit in a empty office to write the paper. Christensen spent a lot of time in peru and worked very closely with Peruvian associates.

The book sure is an adventure that offers everything. I would agree with you if it wasn't for the fact it is so easy for sellers in all countries to fudge that plants are captive raised.

Actually in Peru now it is next to impossible to pass a wild plant for an invitro produced plant. It is possible to smuggle out wild plants and offer false documents but that is not the fault of the Peruvian government. Governments can only control a small part of what people do.

But agree serious collectors would value disease free captive bred plants over wild plants.

Serious collectors value wild plants highly. Wild primary genetics have a great attraction for serious collectors as being the real thing and not altered by man.
 
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Eric Muehlbauer

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Don't forget the part about George Norris, elderly, diabetic, with heart disease, spending over a year in jail for mislabelling perfectly legal phrags, simply to speed up the import process.
 

LostInPeru

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It's hard to have an opinion on these issues when I know they will do nothing to change anything.

I appreciate everyone's input on this topic and we could be here forever debating this lol. Thanks for expressing your ideas everyone I really find the fresh opinions give me a better picture of the whole situation and that it is much more complex than I could ever fully understand. Thanks.

On a lighter note stumbled across this footage of PK being grown in the famous town of El Progreso mentioned in the book where Kovach purchased his Phragmipedium kovachii from, and gives readers of the book who have never been to Peru like me a good sense of what those remote Peruvian locations in the book look like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V9ofu280zM
 
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