Stealing Succulents Sucks, Says CDFW, So They Arrest Two Korean Nationals and One Chinese National

Succulents

Succulents [Photo provided by the Department of Fish and Wildlife]

Press release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers have made another arrest this week in their ongoing battle against a rising poaching trend on the north coast of northern California with international connections.

CDFW arrested Taehun Kim, 52, and Taeyun Kim, 46, both of Korea, and Liu Fengxia, 37, of China for poaching over 2,300 Dudleya succulent plants near Trinidad in Humboldt County. Charges include illegal take of the plants and felony conspiracy, among others.

Poachers profit financially from the illegal take of Dudleya by stripping plants from sea cliffs and shipping them overseas to other countries, including Korea, China and Japan, where they are prized by some for decorative purposes. On April 4, wildlife officers intercepted and seized 1,334 of the plants in boxes on their way to be shipped overseas. An additional 1,000 Dudleya were found in the suspects’ hotel room during the service of the search warrant. The overseas market value of the plants is between $40 to $50 per plant, resulting in a conservative value estimate of over $90,000.

The removal of Dudleya can result in environmental degradation of habitat and a destabilization of bluffs and cliffs on the coastline. Illegal harvesting is also alarming because California hosts a number of Dudleya species and subspecies that are rare or at risk of extinction.

CDFW enforcement initially identified this trend earlier this year, in part, after determining that a man was shipping Dudleya out of a Mendocino post office to China.

In recent months near Point Arena, Mendocino County, wildlife officers cited three individuals for a series of misdemeanor violations including illegal take and trespassing. The charges were elevated by the Mendocino District Attorney to felony conspiracy and grand theft, based upon the value of stolen plants.

On Jan. 29, one man was apprehended with approximately 50 succulents, and on March 6, two men were cited after being apprehended with 1,400 succulents. The individual in the January incident pleaded guilty to the illegal take of plants and received a sentence that included three years of probation, a $5,000 fine and 240 hours of community service. The March case is pending.

“We have seen a remarkable amount of concern over this from botanists and the public alike,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of Law Enforcement. “A public tip started this investigation and ultimately uncovered an international conspiracy to poach Dudleya succulents and ship them overseas for profit. A critical part of the Department’s mission is to protect and manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.”

Law enforcement personnel from the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and East Bay Regional Parks, in addition to representatives of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), U.C. Santa Cruz Botany Department and local citizens, assisted with the investigation. CDFW personnel have replanted the seized succulents in the areas where taken whenever possible with assistance from CNPS and U.C. Santa Cruz botany experts.

Anyone who believes they are witness to unlawful poaching or pollution activity is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text to tip411. Both methods allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist with investigations. Callers may remain anonymous, if desired, and a reward can result from successful capture and prosecution.

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53 comments

  • Hmmmmm, gave up on the abalone game?

    • When they aren’t growing weed in the summer the Asian community is poaching all sorts of shit in the winter

      • I’m just curious why when three Asians do something, it is the entire community and when 20 white folks do something, it is their fault alone?

        • My guess would be that when people don’t fully understand a foreign culture they tend to lump those people all together. You have to admit though that the fact so many Asian folks get busted poaching abs is more than just a statistical anomaly. I have heard many people throughout the world lump us all together as “stupid Americans”. I personally don’t take much offense when I hear it.

          • Not only “so many asians”, but the quantity of what they poach. White folk will pop a short ab or maybe one over and call it a day. The other groups have no limit. Or, if you are F$G, you just take what you want.

            • Not so on the “one one over and call it a day” thing. The largest abalone poaching haul (468 abs) was done by a couple of white guys named Kurt Ward and Joshua Holt, in 2004. They were selling it in Mexico. There have been lot’s of poaching cases since then that involved whites, or were whites and Asians partnered up.

        • Because white American citizen’s don’t steal succulents and foreigners do for profit?

          • Aren’t there plenty of white Americans stealing things reported here? Not succulents but say burls from redwoods, gas from schools, quarters from kids, etc.

            • I have seen pictures posted on social media of White Americans stealing Dudleya Succulents they found growing, then bragging about it. Stealing is stealing, no matter your nationality, no matter the amount.

          • It was the asians who clearcut the old growth redwood forests?
            People do bad things for money regardless of age, sex, ethnicity.

        • Well for one, they are not even citizens of our hypothetical nation called America?

          • Oh canyon oak, You weren’t a citizen anywhere when your ignorant granddaddy started killing the people who were here, and taking their land. So now you’re a citizen?? no, you are the descendant of an original Indian killer. You should be deported for your historical guilt, and your land and assets given to the descendants of its rightful owner.

            Or .you could get a clue. whichever

        • Ah, welcome to the USA in 2018 Kym!

  • wow, if it ain’t red hot or nailed down, its going bye bye

  • Last ones they caught where fined $5000, the plants are worth $90,000, Boy I am sure that will teach them not to poach our stuff. Build the wall out into the ocean to keep the illegal asians out also!

    • If you really believe that thumb sized succulents are selling for $50 en masse, I’ve got a bridge between Rio Dell and Scotia you might be interested in buying.

      • I’m not sure I could afford the maintenance on that bridge as it needs repainting every couple of years.

      • fuckwalterwhite.com

        A thumb-sized succulent turns into a tennis ball pretty quick. Grows way faster than weed.

    • 90,000 was the estimated value given to the Case in April where 2334 succulents. The 5000 dollar fee was in response to the Case in January where a man stole 50 for a value of 2000-2500, so I would say it was an adequate deterrent in addition to the 250hrs of community service

  • Another point against cultural diversity

  • I still don’t see why someone doesn’t just start a big nursery in asia, if they’re in such high demand. Usually you see poaching like this for things that are illegal, not for things you can grow by the acre perfectly legally.

  • Won’t be able to rape and pillage the abs anymore so now there on to another resource, F-ing low life’s!!!

    • small minded humboldt entitlement

      Yeah- damn foreigners.
      Not like the Humboldt “pioneers” who came and raped & pillaged & viciously, violently murdered the original Yurok /Wiyot people here within the last 100 years. (See- wiyot massacre, see attacking of hoopa coming of age ceremonies, see garbage dumped on Trinidad village until all elders forced out, see Humboldt vigilantes out of Hydesville top secret group of men who decided to try to murder all the wiyot on the island).

      And not like the OTHER “pioneers” who then raped and pillaged the redwoods, or the “pioneers” who raped and pillaged the hills with their shitty weed growing tech (non salmon safe garbage pesticide crapholes- not all, but many!)

      A bunch of them, and their descendents surely, on here whining about “foreigners” succulent theft. Deal with your grandpa who killed elders, women, children, etc. Then you can complain about the “foreigners raping the succulents”

      Humboldt’s been getting raped and pillaged by everyone ever since the first peoples lost control over the land. As each industry has died out, desperate people take whatever they can yield from this place. Yurok had an established village in Trinidad for thousands of years, they didn’t trash it, Whites have in the past 100.

      But, damn these foreign Asians.

      Succulent theft sucks.
      But so do you.

      • As do you too. Every human group does just as much thieving from the earth as their technology allows. Being unable to do worse is not the same as choosing to do better. Look up Crow Creek Massacre, Pontiac’s Rebellion School Massacre, Sacred Ridge Pithouse, Native Burning to expand grass land, Wooly Mammoth extinction, etc.

        Read more, talk less.

        • You’re not allowed to talk about Native Americans massacring other Native Americans and their killing of elders, women, children, etc. Those don’t count anymore.

        • Conservative Stupidity

          Arrogant. Typical for the simple minded

          • Inaccurate blanket statement typical of the new radical liberal left, what are you tired of throwing out racist and nazi every time?

        • small minded humboldt entitlement

          Read about how sustainably the local tribes lived prior to contact. They managed // stewarded the land for ages prior to contact.

  • NO plant is easier or quicker to root from a single leaf than a succulent. The stupidity of this crime is astounding.

    • Theworldneedspeace

      They will strip the whole plants down, leaving a leaf or two. Making dozens of new ones from a single plant. So the estimated 90,000$ is a drop in the bucket compared to the real price of say…20,000 new succulents from those 2,400 plants. It destroys the landscape ripping them out, and it will stock a massive greenhouse in just a few months time. Bad deal, no matter who is poaching.

    • Dudleya cannot be propagated by leaves. They must be propagated by cuttings or seeds. These plants are very slow growers as succulents go. These Dudleya were not growing there for months, or even years. More like decades and centuries. It is very sad and selfish others would degrade our beautiful coast for profit.

  • Great now we’re have every tweaked zombie in Humboldt County are gonna be stealing those plants they ain’t got a chance.

    • Hopefully those perpetrators of wild plant “finger blight” don’t have the contacts these foreigners did to make it profitable.

      I have always wondered why locals don’t harvest those darned French feral snails that were introduced here and ship them wholesale back to France. The French have apparently eaten their own wild snails to the point of scarcity. Maybe Humboldt Wild Caught Snails have a market there.

    • Damn. I didn’t think of that.

  • 40 or 50 bucks a plant?!? Can it be grown?!?

  • That’s the problem, they could dig up the gold hidden, because most of the general public do not understand the rarity and value of those plants.

    I see skeptical comments as to the price of those dudleya. In fact they are underestimated! It is truly 40-50US, but per HEAD! not per plant. So a plant with 3 heads is about 120-150US, and that is the wholesale price in bulk. I lived in China for a decade, and they are very popular, some individual old plants can fetch over 1000-1500US. Most of the plants on the photo are about 6-10 years old, they grow slowly in the wild.

    Dozens of thousands have been smuggled to China and Korea since a few years. They do not grow that fast, even if they look like fast growing echeveria from garden centers, many species do not propagate by leaf cuttings, they are not echeveria, but Dudleya. Most important, Chinese and Koreans value the wild shape and uniqueness of the wild plants. Nursery grown Dudleya have a value of a few dollars, and they are easy to recognize, the trunk scars are very different, as well as the general shape.

    As well they will have a very different value according to the leaf color and disposition, they are priced like bonsai when they are sold to Chinese hobbyists, and some plants are known to have fetched 2000-3000US. My knowledge of that market says that a shipment like that is about a monthly shipment to one of the Chinese trader, the profit are indeed enormous. How I know? I did propagate some of them in Kunming to make nursery grown plants 4 years ago, but they had no trade value. I saw shipments like the one on the photo arriving cargo every month at one succulent nursery in Kunming, saw the prices really paid, knew the trader so he explained to me in details how it works, and he was one of many. They have been poaching California Dudleya for nearly a decade now. First they used the ‘private land’ exemption to collect them, but now there are not that many of the proper species left on private land, so they need to attack protected area to satisfy the demand.

    The demand is tremendous, so it is very sure that at a point many of the Dudleya species will become extinct in the wild in in Califoria, arresting a few poachers won’t deter them from removing every single plant they find. They have a very high value, cannot be produced in a nursery to replace wild plants at all for the reasons mentioned already, and are not CITES protected species.

    Before, smugglers used to play with US poached Ariocarpus, but those are CITES protected, so it was a risky game. When the Dudleya are out of the US, smuggling non protected plant is not a big felony in China or Korea, and the profit is much higher.

  • Kym, do you know what they do with all these plants now? Do they get replanted?

  • I really hope they get replanted, even tossed down a cliff would be better than letting them rot in an evidence bag.

  • unbelievable !

  • Gee, I have to purchase all of the succulents that I want to grow in my yard, but we also only get as many abs as allowed by law. My husband has watched orientals (no he doesn’t know where they are from) get an over abundance of abs, leave them on the beach and then have their friends or relatives go pick out the ones they want because anyone can have 3 in their possession.

  • CDFW needs a fleet of drones to patrol areas where poaching occurs so the game wardens can catch the culprits in the act. Prison time is an excellent cure for poaching. There’s a huge market in China for all kinds of wildlife products including tiger bones, rhinocerous horns, elephant tusks, abalone and, apparently, Dudleya. These consumers have no respect for wildlife conservation and are willing to pay top dollar to poachers who laugh at weak conservation enforcement.

  • Put the same effort into protecting this plant as was once put into eradicating a different plant, and bingo…no problem, right?

  • Too bad the trend isn’t poaching ice plant instead.

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