Trapped in the Goddess’s Mousetrap


Venus Flytrap (Dionae muscipula)Our choice to highlight Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) on our 2021 Valentine’s Day cards was inspired by the article, “Trapped in the Goddess’s Mousetrap: Equitable Solutions for Poverty Poaching of Venus Flytraps” by Katrina Outland (2018). This article dives into the legal aspects of both the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act as the main plant protection laws. Katrina points out that federal plant protection is sparse. An aspect of her in-depth research that is unique is that she exposes the inequalities in traditional law enforcement of poaching and uses case examples where upstream buyers and resellers of poached plants were held accountable, such as a mill owner who knowingly purchased poached lumber.

Poverty poaching is a difficult subject to talk about. In researching recent arrests of white sage poaching in the Etiwanda preserve, it was apparent that undocumented individuals were harvesting white sage out of desperation for money, and they were being taken advantage of by the white sage “mafia” to do their dirty work. Until the upstream buyers and resellers are held accountable the white sage poaching will likely continue. This paper is an important first step in making the case for how a shift in approach to protecting plants could make a tangible difference.

The Venus flytrap can be propagated in vitro using plant tissue culture, and there are many nurseries that specialize in various carnivorous plants specifically. Certainly, habitat loss combined with climate change and invasive species are threats to the fly traps survival but the demand of such a unique species adds additional pressure for poaching. Plant protection laws are sparse and convoluted at best, in 2016 nationwide plant specialists petitioned its listing under the endangered species act, which is still in pending review, and can take years even decades.

There are historical claims of medicinal properties of Venus Flytrap and there are products with the extract of the plant for anti-cancer properties. Plants patented for pharmaceutical use must comply with strict guidelines for sourcing from propagated plant material, but plants used in dietary supplements do not. Here is a recent article that discourages the medicinal claims of Venus Flytrap.

Trapped in the Goddess's Mousetrap: Equitable Solutions for Poverty Poaching of Venus Flytraps

Katrina Outland

Abstract

Most discussions of poaching—the intentional, unlawful taking or killing of a living organism—focus on animals. However, poaching is also the primary threat for many prized collectible plants. The bizarre Venus flytrap has particularly drawn media attention as North Carolina struggles to save its endemic State Carnivorous Plant from extinction. Existing federal plant protection laws are sparse and either ineffective (in the case of the Endangered Species Act) or underutilized (in the case of the Lacey Act). Traditional poaching enforcement methods, which target individual poachers with small fines, are designed for animal poaching, and fail to adequately protect plants. Not only do enforcement officers have difficulty finding plant poachers, but poverty, drug use, and cultural traditions often provide incentives that small fines do little to deter. North Carolina has taken one alternative approach by increasing deterrence through stricter penalties, including jail time. Another alternative approach is using the Lacey Act to enforce state laws, as modeled by a maple-poaching case in Washington State. This comment argues that a combination of these two approaches may best protect the Venus flytrap—and avoid the inequities of traditional enforcement—by targeting upstream buyers and resellers of poached plants with more severe penalties.