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Eco-conservation of genetic diversity of wild edible

mushrooms in the western ghats: A case study of

government ban on collection of Termitomyces spp.
From wildlife sanctuaries in Goa
Nandkumar Kamat
Department of Botany
Goa University, Taleigao, Goa
Termitophilic mushrooms are
placed under three genera
Termitomyces Heim
Podabrella Singer
Sinotermitomyces Zhang
There is a rich diversity of
Termitophilic species in Goa
Seven novel Termitomyces taxa
were identified in Goa
Goa has 28 species of
Termitophilic mushrooms
The major marketed
Termitomyces species of Goa
• 1. Termitomyces striatus
• 2.T. heimii
• 3.T. eurrhizus
• 4.T. medius
• 5.T. mammiformis
• 6.T. entolomoides
• 7.T. clypeatus
Termitomyces mushrooms are sold in
urban markets in leaf packets
Erosion of Termitomyces
• In 1986, random market survey revealed 15
• In 1991, only 12 species were identified in
market samples
• In 1993, only 10 species were seen in
• In 2004, it was difficult to see more than 5-
6 species
The uncontrolled Termitomyces
trade is eroding its’ genetic base
• In 1975, the Termitomyces immature
fruitbodies, were sold @ of Rs. 5 for a packet of
• In 1985, the price went up to Rs. 20
• In 1990, packet sizes were reduced to 40-50 and
the price ranged from Rs. 60-80
• In 2004, packet size was further reduced to 30-
40 and the price increased to Rs. 150
Chronology of the ban
• 1991- A preliminary report is submitted to forest dept.
• 1992-3- the wildlife protection act is invoked and public
notices are issued. These are reissued every year in
• 1993:-Govt. clarifies that the ban is limited only to wild
life sanctuaries
• 1994:- Media is divided over the ban
• 1995-99:- Govt. takes a lenient view of the ban under
political pressure
• 2000:-Forest department prepares publicity material
on Termitomyces sp.
• 2004:- Fresh Conflicts emerge over mushroom
The ban generated a lot of heat, noise and
thunder even in the Goa assembly
The local media wrote extensively on the
enforcement of the ban
Boquets followed the brickbats
Why the people in and near the wild life
sanctuaries do not favour the ban?

• 1. No investment or hired labour is required

to gather the crop
• 2. Source of assured income from urban and
roadside marketing
• 3. Ignorance of the ecology, biology and
phenology of the species
• 4. Distrust of the forest dept. officials
Reasons for conflicts

• The mushroom gatherers V/S the forest

guards:- Over the enforcement of the ban
• The mushroom consumers V/S the forest
dept.:- for not permitting abundant supply in
• The politicians V/S the forest dept:- Over
harassment to their mycophilic political
Recent incidents show politicisation of the
The Forest department issued
conservation awareness material
• In 2000, the forest department issued
posters and stickers with Termitomyces
heimii Natarajan to promote the cause of
conservation of the genetic diversity of
Termitophilic mushrooms of Goa
The growing turnover despite the
• Termitomyces mushrooms are mainly sold
in urban markets
• In 1984, the trade turnover was estimated to
be about Rs. 5 lakhs
• In 1993, the trade went up to Rs. 15 lakhs
• In 2004, a single wholesaler in Panaji made
a cool Rs. 20, 000 in a day
Market forces would endanger Termitomyces genetic
diversity of the western ghats

• The ban in Goa was restricted only to wild life

sactuaries and served a limited purpose
• There was no ban for collection for self
consumption for population inside the sanctuaries
• Limits for sustainable exploitation were not
• Demand supply equation favoured the suppliers
• New entrants wish to explore untapped habitats
for making some “easy money” during the season
Sustainable Alternatives
• Forest dept. launched awareness drive in
• House committee supported ban and
recommended popularisation of Oyster
mushroom cultivation
• Govt. trained more than 3000 people in free
mushroom cultivation training camps since
India does not have a policy or code for wild
mushroom collectors

• Conservation of fungal habitats and fungi is

an important issue in EU countries and USA
• BMS and British Nature are in forefront in
mushroom conservation education
• Experts are advising China to control wild
mushroom trade
Lessons from Goa
• Mushroom conservation from wild habitats is
possible with partial success
• Consumer awareness is more important than
collectors’ training
• Edible wild mushrooms need to enjoy same status
as wild game, frogs, turtles and dolphins
• Commercial species have to be vigorously
promoted to make the wild species less attractive
to consumers
• Top priority has to be given to save “what
• The Goa experience shows that urban consumers
do not have food ethics which respects wild
habitats of edible fungi
• Once wild mushrooms become part of
ethnomycophagic traditions it is difficult to
reverse the habit
• People are prepared to pay any price for
Termitomyces spp. as a seasonal wild gourmet
• The mycological community needs to advocate
polices and codes similar to EU and BMS