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Dutchmen detained on tulip-smuggling suspicions

ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency | 6/19/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Two Dutch citizens have been apprehended at the Kapıkule border crossing with Bulgaria while allegedly attempting to smuggle out 57 rare tulip bulbs that are endemic to Erzurum’s Karayazı district.

Two Dutch citizens have been apprehended at the Kapıkule border crossing with Bulgaria while allegedly attempting to smuggle out 57 rare tulip bulbs that are endemic to Erzurum’s Karayazı district.

Police detained 60-year-old Franciscus Johannes Linschoten and 29-year-old Michael Hubertus Klok as they attempted to drive into Bulgaria. Officials also seized a total of 160 different endemic species of 5,236 plant seeds from the vehicle.

The event was the largest alleged attempt to ever smuggle plants out of Turkey in the country’s history, Anatolia news agency reported.

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. Authorities have now sent the vehicle for further X-ray inspection to conduct more detailed research of the plants.

Linschoten and Klok said they were taking the seeds to use in their own garden.

However, officials called experts from Trakya University’s Biology Department to look into the matter further. Researchers inspected the confiscated plants and discovered that some, 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 whose export is 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.

A total of 57 “upside-down” tulip bulbs were allegedly seized from Linschoten and Klok’s vehicle.

The two Dutch men were allegedly seen by Artvin Çoruh University students while they were collecting plants in Artvin’s Kafkasör area, which is near to Erzurum.

Erdal Kaya, a Turkish botanical expert, said plant smuggling was one of the biggest problems that Turkey was currently experiencing.

Noting that there were only 57 upside-down tulip bulb species in the world, Kaya said the species was 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.

The tulip bulbs are very valuable as they are used in cancer and Alzheimer research, added Kaya.

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

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