The family of orchids is probably the largest family of flowering plants, with somewhere between 20,000 and 22,000 individual species. Counting varieties and subspecies and other taxonomical
hair-splitting, the estimates have ranged as high as 30,000.
Unfortunately, due to the changes occurring to our planet because of anthropogenic (human) and natural causes, many species of living creatures are threatened with extinction. Due to the combination
of 6 billion hungry human mouths to feed, and devastating consumption on the part of industrial nations, the natural habitat for many species has been dramatically reduced. As much as 96% of the primary forest of
Madagascar, for example, has been destroyed.
Of course, it would be wonderful to conserve and preserve everything forever and ever. From a paleontological standpoint, over 99.9% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct. Why worry
about a few more?
The rate of species extinction is currently so high that it exceeds that experienced during the mass extinctions of geological history, including that of the K/T which is when the dinosaurs were wiped
out. Despite the research that has been poured into extinction, we know relatively little. Worse, we know virtually nothing about the house of cards which is our biosphere. How much damage, precisely, can an
environment suffer until the top consumers expire?
Humans are, of course, the "top consumers." We are busy destroying our oceans, salinifying the land, depleting the nutrients of our agricultural areas, and polluting our air. Perhaps we are
responsible for climate change and the ozone hole. All of these do not bode well for those of us that are at the top of the food chain.
There is only so much that one organization or group can do. We've chosen orchids, and given the width and breadth of the Orchidaceae, this will be plenty enough. We fully recognize that the work
we do here is of limited scope: if we cut down the rainforest, after all, what good are the orchids we 'rescue' if there is nowhere to return them? I will happily admit that conservation of species out of
their natural environment ("ex situ" conservation) is far inferior to the preservation of an entire ecosystem. At the same time, it's either this or nothing. All we're trying to do is keep our kids
(no, we don't have any, but what the hey) from being able to point to a picture of an extinct species and ask why there aren't any left.
Just a little responsibility in the great scheme of things.
So all we try to do is foster conservation through propagation of orchids. We send out information, products, new research data, and, well... lots of stuff. Our recipients don't just get seeds-
they get our best advice, information, and (in developing countries and research labs) some of the compounds and chemicals needed to keep going.
We'd like to work with more growers in developing countries to help get them going with more information (such as copies of our book), and spreading information about media that can be formulated
inexpensively, using fertilizer and other readily available chemicals. We also do some research here to develop new formulae.
But we need help. We need more donors, more recipients, and (most of all) a new facility. Corporate sponsors, in a word, would be great. Drop us a line if you're willing to help. We're looking
for a leg up, not a handout.
Thanks. And tread softly. Once we wreck this island, it's not like we can leave it for another.