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The largest stand of lady orchid Orchis purpurea in the Lublin region has been destroyed!
On May 27, Katarzyna Barańska, Anna Cwener, Michał D±browski, Paweł Pluciński and Piotr Chmielewski of the Naturalists' Club conducted field visits to Zachodniowołyńska Dolina Bugu and Żurawce, areas included in the "Conservation and restoration of xerothermic grasslands in Poland - theory and practice" project, allowing us to determine the specific scope of planned project activities. Serious losses in the population of lady orchids were observed at the Machnowska Góra nature reserve, which is part of the Żurawce Natura 2000 site. Most of the plants were dug up. This was one of the most plentiful stands of this protected species in the Lublin region and one of the richest in Poland. The County Headquarters of the Police in Tomaszów Lubelski, the staff of the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Lublin and local media were informed by telephone on the same day the discovery was made. During the absence of project participants (who were then attending the 7th meeting of the European Dry Grassland Group in Slovakia), Jan Kucharczyk, a member of the Polish Botanical Society who has been studying the population of lady orchids in Poland for several years, personally informed the police. Officials from the Investigative Unit of the Police County Headquarters in Tomaszów Lubelski, a forest guard from the Tomaszów Forestry Division and a local expert on the Lublin region from the Naturalists' Club - Piotr Chmielewski - visited the area on June 7. Evidence of the digging was documented photographically and a report was submitted based on the crime scene investigation. The Naturalists' Club will soon submit a report on the damages sustained at the site to the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Lublin in accordance with the Law of April 13, 2007 on preventing damage to the environment and its compensation.

Unfortunately, removing rare plant species in some regions of Poland is common. The fate of the lady orchids was also shared by several clusters of Echium russicum at the Dobużek Natura 2000 site. Most of this rare species was dug out last year. Destroying habitats of protected species in Poland is a crime! According to the Law of April 16, 2004 on natural protection, persons violating regulations in nature reserves related to protected species are subject to arrest or a fine (Art. 127). Additionally, persons trading in species protected under European Union law are subject to imprisonment from 3 months to 5 years (Art. 128). Similar penalties are found in the criminal code, among others Art. 181. § 1 of this law states: Any person causing the significant destruction of a species in the plant or animal kingdom is subject to punishment of imprisonment from 3 months to 5 years. It should also be remembered that withholding information about a crime is also against the law!

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of this and acquire rare and disappearing species, most often those with impressive flowers. The plants are frequently taken for trade or private use. Many cases of illegal removal of rare plants are also known among botanists and academic staff who acquire material for their herbariums in this manner. These persons often go unpunished due to the lack of reaction on the part of society and local officials. This is why we want to increase awareness about this problem to all those who care about the protection of nature! By reacting to these types of incidences and reporting them to the police, as well as educating society, we can contribute to saving the populations of many rare and disappearing plants in the country!