Any resource of high value and relevance to rural livelihoods is at risk of overexploitation. The anthropogenic pressure on the caterpillar fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis (Berk.) G.H. Sung, J.M. Sung, Hywel-Jones & Spatafora 2007, commonly referred to as yartsa gunbu, is intense, especially given the absence of traditional sustainable collection techniques. Stable harvests are the result of 2 factors: more people searching more intensely and extensively and the ongoing discovery of new areas for harvest. Increasing international demand and prices (presently around US$ 20,000 per kg) have resulted not just in overexploitation but also in the degradation of the fungus’s habitat, thus endangering its future viability. This article reports on a rapid vulnerability assessment involving 2511 harvesters in 9 broad study sites and 110 villages in the Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand state, India, in the central Himalaya, and recommends ways to lessen the pressure on this valuable species.
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