Crime: Park officials monitoring cordycep collection in Sephu and Dangchu gewogs in Wangdue last month sent back more than 30 people after they were caught collecting the fungus illegally.

Officials said the collectors were from Phobjikha and Kashi and other parts of Wangdue and were collecting cordyceps from Sirizomsa, Meshina and Sephu.

The illegal collectors were caught two to three days after their arrival in the mountains, said foresters. While they could not seize any crodyceps after they claimed that they did not get any, they were still penalised with fines.

Namgay Dorji, 32, a collector from Dangchu gewog said it was difficult to spot encroachers and collectors without permit, as most of them stay miles away from the collecting area and come to collect from other areas. “We have even spotted people from other districts collecting, claiming to be the husbands of highlander women,” he said.

Although unhappy with this year’s cordycep collection, Namgay said that the growth is likely to increase next year. However, he said the number of cordycep collectors has also increased.

Collectors like Namgay and Lhaba said that with an increase in the number of collectors and illegal collectors encroaching in, the need for a proper boundary survey and a strict rule have been more pronounced.

Laya’s park ranger Leki Wangdi said unlike the previous years, they have not spotted collectors without permit this year. This, he said could be because of the increase in number of permits from 405 to 481 and also due to decline in cordycep fungus. Earlier, park officials used to spot locals without permits or people from across the Tibetan border collecting in Laya and Lunana.

Last year more than 100 Dangchups were found collecting cordyceps in Lunana. The issue was later resolved after the home minister, Lyonpo Damchoe Dorji met with local leaders, foresters and district officials and conducted an inspection.

While no Dangchups have encroached the Lunaps’ area, more than half the Sephus were found collecting cordyceps in Gangjuna, on the Sephu- Bumthang Chokhor gewog’s border. Sephup collectors were allowed to collect since the place was listed as Sephu’s collection area as per the permit issued by Sephu gewog.

However, an agreement was made that from next year, the collectors from Sephu would not be allowed to pick cordyceps on Gangjuna. This was also the first time to spot cordycep growth in Gangjuna, a park official said.

Sephu gup Rinchen Penjore said that although he has learnt about boundary disputes between the two gewogs, he was not informed about the issue. As per the gewog’s boundary, Gangjuna is a border between Sephu and Chokhor gewog and it belongs to both the gewogs, he said.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue