High-altitude cordycep collectors battle illegal collection amid reduced patrols

Around this time of the year, people residing in high-altitude areas go to collect cordyceps. However, they continue to face competition from illegal collectors. Despite forestry and army officials patrolling the areas, locals say the number of unlawful collectors has increased, with numbers reaching up to 800 when the yield is good. They are more concerned this time as the number of forestry and army officials patrolling the sites has decreased this year.

After the government legalised the harvesting of cordyceps in 2004, people of the gewogs with designated collection sites go to collect the priced fungi for one month every year after obtaining collection permits from their respective gewogs.

However, they are unable to harvest the fungi completely in their respective areas due to the growing number of illegal collectors over the years.

However, they are unable to harvest the fungi completely in their respective areas due to the growing number of illegal collectors over the years.

“We requested the forestry department for strict monitoring in the designated harvest areas but they said there is not enough manpower. Nonetheless, they send two teams to monitor the areas and we are grateful for that,” said Dawa Tshering, Sephu Gup.

Even Lunana has seen an increasing number of illegal collectors over the years.

According to local leaders, in 2022 there were 11 forestry and 15 army officials patrolling the area. But this time, there are only four forestry officials.

The local leaders say that they see the highest number of illegal collectors once every four to five years when the cordyceps yield is expected to be good with about 800 illegal collectors entering their region.

The local leaders also added that illegal collectors manage to enter their region despite officials on duty regularly patrolling the area.

They said if not looked into, harvesters might end up harming each other physically.

Lunana has reported such incidents. In May 2022, an illegal collector died after being hit by a stray bullet during a confrontation with officials on duty. In the same incident, an army official on patrol was also injured when he was hit with rocks by a group of people illegally collecting cordyceps.

The local leaders also added that illegal collectors are not harvesting sustainably which could affect the yield in the long run.

Besides, several yak herders reportedly lost belongings from their tents which they believe were stolen by the illegal collectors. They say it would be best if the authorities concerned could send DeSuups and the army to patrol the area.

The Director of the Department of Forests and Park Services said there is not much the department can do regarding the matter.

The Director added that the harvesters seem to be unaware of border demarcations for the collection sites. He said the department has been requesting the respective District Land Commission office to properly demarcate the harvest areas to avoid conflicts and confusion.

“Our main responsibility is firstly to make sure that people are not harvesting before the agreed harvesting date. Secondly, it is to see whether people are following the sustainability practices and thirdly to make people leave on time,” said Lobzang Dorji, the director of DoFPS.

For the department, the director said that the bigger concern is the sustainability of fungi. The department is advocating for sustainable practices since the yield of cordyceps has been decreasing over the years.

The Director said this could be because of climate change and the locals being illiterate and unaware of sustainability practices.

Phub Dorji

Edited by Phub Gyem

Top Stories

Related Stories


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Comments