Two arrested for rare tulip smuggling

June 20, 2011

Turkish police have arrested two Dutch nationals at the Kapıkule border crossing between Turkey and Bulgaria for allegedly attempting to smuggle out 57 rare tulip bulbs, the Anatolia news agency said.

According to the agency, officials seized a total of 160 different endemic species out of the 5,236 plant seeds the two men, aged 60 and 29, had in their vehicle. The seizure is the largest alleged attempt to smuggle plants out of Turkey in the country’s history.

Officials discovered numerous different plant species in small pots, a hidden compartment full of plant seeds, as well as tulip bulbs that had been concealed by newspapers. The vehicle was sent for an X-ray inspection, the agency said.  The two men said they were taking the seeds to use in their own garden.

Experts from Trakya University’s Biology Department said that the confiscated plants, especially the upside-down tulip (Fritillaria Michailovskyi) which is only grown in the eastern province of Erzurum and the eastern district of Şemdinli in Hakkari, were endemic species and their export was illegal.

The Fritillaria Michailovskyi is also known as the Adıyaman Lalesi in Turkey.

The tulip bulbs and the other endemic species were sent to the Yalova Atatürk Garden Culture Center Institute following the men’s detention, Hurriyet Daily Newsreported on Sunday.

A total of 57 “upside-down” tulip bulbs were allegedly seized from the vehicle. The two Dutch men were allegedly seen by Artvin Çoruh University students while they were collecting plants in Artvin’s Kafkasör area, near to Erzurum.

Erdal Kaya, a Turkish botanical expert, said plant smuggling was one of the biggest problems that Turkey was currently experiencing and that there were only 57 upside-down tulip bulb species in the world, making them at risk of becoming extinct.

Kaya said other countries’ plant seeds were also in danger and added that the Dutch pair had allegedly stolen species from Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Iran, Syria and Georgia.

According to the expert, tulip bulbs are very valuable and are used in cancer and Alzheimer research.

“A total of 19 endemic plant species are under protection, and the upside-down tulip bulb is among them,” he said.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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