Biological scientists state that the iconic cactus plant is facing a serious threat from illegal smuggling that is flourishing rapidly despite the ban on unregulated sale and trade of cacti as hunters are uprooting these plants indiscriminately from National Parks and Indian Reservations besides those growing in the wild. In the south of Spain prickly pear cacti is being destroyed by the cochineal beetle which is almost driving the plant to extinction. According to Anton Brugger, a cacti enthusiast based in Southern Spain with 10,000 species of cacti growing in his farm, people find it unbelievable that even cacti can become extinct.
This is because cacti have been recognized as hardy plants that can thrive in harsh desert conditions and can withstand poor soil conditions. But Spain’s traditional cactus the emblematic prickly pear that was found across its Southern region has been devastated by the cochineal beetle. Though these plants can also be found in America, Africa and some parts of Sri Lanka, they have to be recreated from off-shoots and finding the right species is difficult as there are only 2000 species of Cactaceaein the world.
These are the most threatened plant groups in the world with over 30% of them already in the critically endangered list. This is largely due to drastic climatic changes around the world like rising temperatures followed by long periods of draught with little access to water making it tough for them to survive. Conservationists are worried about these species as collectors are seeking them out in their search for exotic and niche varieties in remote areas too while narco-smugglers are using them for making mind-altering drugs. In fact a recent report about new cacti species found in remote areas did not reveal actual geographical location of the find as researchers say that cacti is the most coveted item for smugglers out of Mexico after guns and drugs.