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
Agricineae Tricholomataceae Termitomyceteae 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 diversity
• In 1986, random market survey revealed 15 species • In 1991, only 12 species were identified in market samples • In 1993, only 10 species were seen in market • In 2004, it was difficult to see more than 56 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 100 • 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 3040 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 June • 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 collection

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 market • The politicians V/S the forest dept:- Over harassment to their mycophilic political supporters

Recent incidents show politicisation of the issue

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 ban
• 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 prescribed • 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 1993 • House committee supported ban and recommended popularisation of Oyster mushroom cultivation • Govt. trained more than 3000 people in free mushroom cultivation training camps since 1996

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 remains”

• 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 delicacy • The mycological community needs to advocate polices and codes similar to EU and BMS

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