.. Only about 40 returned, says Lunana gup

Nima Wangdi 

Cordyceps poachers from Dangchu and Sephu gewogs in Wangduephodrang are still collecting Cordyceps in Lunana gewog despite asking them to leave for their respective gewogs early this month.

Lunana Gup, Kaka said some 300 people from the two gewogs are still seen in the Cordyceps collection sites in Lunana. “Collectors from Tshojong returned to their village fearing of the threats from poachers, especially after the recent incidents.”

Gup Kaka said that 22 police personnel and the Chiwog Tshogpa escorted 80 cordyceps collectors from Tshojo towards the collection site at Tshocheyna yesterday. Tshocheyna is five hours walk from Tshojong village. There are 27 households in Tshojong village.

Kaka said that of the total illegal collectors from Dangchu and Sephu who entered Lunana, only about 40 returned to their gewogs and the rest are still collecting Cordyceps in Lunana.

The people of Tshojo had recently called the Gup reporting the continued presence of the poachers in collection sites, Tshocheyna and Gangchenphu.

Gup Kaka accused the illegal collectors of poaching Cordyceps from Lunana before, during and after the permitted harvesting period. “Cordyceps is the only source of livelihood for Lunaps and the poaching trend is concerning.”

Gup Kaka, who was on his way to Kodha yesterday, another Cordyceps collection site in the gewog, said due to the threat the intruders posed, even the security personnel returned to the village leaving their tents in the mountains. Illegal collectors had destroyed the tents, and stolen sleeping bags belonging to both security personnel and the collectors at Tshocheyna.

The Gup added that they had also destroyed the rations of the collectors who would stay at Tshocheyna for four months with their cattle. “It’s been about three weeks now that the people of Tshojo have not been able to go for the collection.”

Border demarcation between the disputed gewogs was done in 2014.  After the demarcation, Lunana sacrificed one of its Cordyceps-growing sites, Bjichi to Dangchu gewog, according to Gup kaka. “Despite that, they are still encroaching.”

Sephu Gup Dawa Tshering said he was informed that those who were in Lunana had returned and they were told not to go there again. “Without any evidence, people cannot accuse all the people encroaching to be from Sephu.”

The gup said that those complaining should not make blind accusations. “Instead, they should take pictures of the permits and send them to the respective gups,” he said.

Dangchu Gup Phub Dorji said he did not receive any information about people from his gewog encroaching into Lunana after the recent incident.

He said that a gewog representative was appointed and the chiwog tshogpas were also briefed to ensure no one moves beyond the permitted area.  “I can’t say people from Dangchu are not in Lunana but I have not received information on any encroachment.”

“I heard that there are many people collecting Cordyceps illegally in Lunana but all of them can’t be from Dangchu and Sephu,” Phub Dorji said.

In 2018, following a similar problem, Lunaps reported the issue to Wangdue dzongkhag following which a team led by the senior Dzongkhag officials came to Lunana and escorted their people back.

The bumper harvest, which occurs after every four years, in Lunana this year attracted an influx of intruders.

Lunana gewog has around 200 households and some 600 people collecting Cordyceps every year. Phago, Kodha, Tshocheyna and Gangchenphug are the popular Cordyceps growing areas in the gewog.