A new paper lead by Amy Hinsley and co-authored by me and David Roberts talks about how rarity is a key driver of preference for those that are serious about their orchids. Orchids are one of the best-selling plants in the legal horticultural trade but are also traded illegally and make up 70% of all species listed by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
We use choice a technique called choice experiments to survey 522 orchid buyers online and at large international orchid shows. We show that different groups of consumers have distinct preferences, and that these groups are based on gender, orchid type grown, online purchasing and type of grower. Over half of our sample, likely to be buyers of mass-produced orchids, prefer white, multi-ﬂowered plants. Of greater conservation interest were a smaller group consisting of male hobbyist growers who buy their orchids online, and who were willing to pay signiﬁcantly more for species that are rare in trade.
This is the ﬁrst in-depth study of consumer preferences in the international orchid trade and our ﬁndings conﬁrm the importance of rarity as a driver of hobbyist trade. We show that market-research methods are a new tool for conservationists that could provide evidence for more effective conservation of species threatened by trade, especially via campaigns that focus on demand reduction or behaviour change.