If you have been watching Peace Parks TV for a while, you may remember a story about a large number of rare orchid tubers that were confiscated from poachers in Nyika National Park. The orchids were discovered and recovered by Nyika’s Counter-Poaching Coordinator, Norman English, and his team, who took them back to their base camp. In the hopes that they would survive, Norman stored them in dry sand until the summer rain arrived. Just over a year later, Norman shares with us some good news about these rescued orchids.

Rescuing Poached Orchids

Norman explains to Chief Development Officer Lilian Spijkerman, who is currently visiting the park, that they first stored the orchid tubers undercover inside sheds, buried in dry sand in the hopes of keeping some alive until the rains arrived. At the time, he expected to save about 20% of these rare endemic flowers, which in his view, was better than a total loss. Once their roots had sprouted, they transplanted the orchids outside so they could be exposed to the warmer, wetter weather that summer promises in the region.

Over 60% of the recovered orchids eventually successfully sprouted. The team hopes to soon transplant them back to Nyika plateau where they can thrive in their natural environment.

The Perfect Conditions

Nyika’s high-lying areas are often shrouded in mist, providing the perfect growing conditions for orchids and other wildflowers to flourish during the summer months. The environment is so perfect in fact, that the park is home to over 200 species of orchids, 30 of which can only be found here and nowhere else on Earth. Sadly, due to their rarity, illegal trafficking of the plants remains a problem that Norman and his team must keep a close eye on.

Besides selling them as beautiful house plants, wild orchid tubers are in demand as Malawian locals use them to make a popular vegetarian salami called chikanda. The tubers are boiled and mushed, and some groundnuts and spices are added for flavour. The plant’s roots are very popular and sold in markets fresh, dried, as snacks or as ready-made chikanda.

Peace Parks Foundation is proud of Norman and his team, who have cared for and nurtured these notoriously tricky-to-grow plants back to health. With their roots having taken and showing signs of new sprouts, we are excited to see how they continue to grow and eventually flourish.