A senior environment official called on holidaymakers to Cambodia’s pristine tropical forest tourist destinations to avoid plucking, collecting or breaking vulnerable plant species – especially the exotic carnivorous pitcher plants of the Nepenthes genus – to conserve the beauty and scenic value of nature, and to save populations.
Just five species of these pitcher plants grow in the wild in the Kingdom, some with heightened levels of exposure to extinction risk, Ministry of Environment secretary of state Neth Pheaktra cautioned in a Facebook post.
He pointed out that Nepenthes comprises 129 reported species, the number provided in a 2010 study by Francois Sockhom Mey.
More species have been reported since then, with Maarten J M Christenhusz and James W Byng updating the figure to “about 170” in a 2016 report.
Pheaktra said Nepenthes bokorensis grows in Bokor National Park’s Popok Vil, Veal Sre 100 and Veal Sre 500 areas; and Nepenthes holdenii is found in mountainous regions in the Kingdom’s southwest, such as the Cardamom Mountains.
Nepenthes kampotiana Lecomte is native to Kampot province, Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary and the Cardamom Mountains, he said.
Nepenthes mirabilis (Loureiro) Druce grows in Kampot, Kep and Preah Sihanouk provinces; and Nepenthes smilesii Hemsley can be found in Kampot province and Kampong Speu province’s Kirirom National Park, he added.
The environment official noted that more Cambodians have been making excursions into nature reserves over recent years, as the national population swells.
He called on would-be sightseers to “work together to conserve biodiversity, and especially to refrain from plucking wild plants that are in danger of extinction, to save the species and preserve the grandeur of natural landscapes for the viewing pleasure of other nature-loving excursionists”.
Pheaktra called out to visitors who disrespect the tenets of environmental cleanliness, or who uproot flowers – especially those of the pitcher plants – to snap pictures as a way to express romantic feelings.
“If you love these plants and cherish them for their beauty, you must also conserve them – on their stems – so other visitors can witness the rich pulchritude of these biodiversities,” he said.
He pointed out that experts still know very little of Cambodia’s Nepenthes pitcher plants.
The pitcher-like structures release secretions that attract insects, which fall in and drown in small pools of liquid contained within, he said.
The prey is then digested and converted into mineral nutrition for the plant to develop, he added.
He noted that the five Nepenthes species in the Kingdom are protected by Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), which heavily restricts trade.