Writings of Sikkim since 2007

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hill ‘Viagra’ arrests in Sikkim

Gangtok, July 10: Four persons have been arrested in Sikkim in connection with the smuggling of Yarsagumba, a high-altitude fungus also called “Himalayan Viagra” because it is used as an aphrodisiac and has immense medicinal value.

Officials of the Sikkim forest and environment department, who made the arrests yesterday, refused to disclose details, saying the “case was still under investigation”.

Three of those held are known only by their first names — Narayan, Arjun and Deepak. The fourth has been identified as Darsang Bhutia. All are Sikkim residents, police said.

The bust is part of a wider crackdown on the smuggling of rare medicinal plants from the state over the past year.

According to the principal chief conservator of forests, S.T. Lachungpa, the assistance of various agencies and individuals had been taken to tackle the smuggling.

The four were picked up yesterday after a raid here last week that led to the arrest of Dharkey Gurung alias Rapgay, a Nepali citizen, and Urken Thakuri, from Nagaland, Lachungpa said.

During interrogation, the duo said the mastermind was Ganesh Thapa. The officials picked up Thapa from Singtam last Thursday.

“Wet and partly dry Yarsagumba, hidden in several pillow covers and weighing 14.84kg was recovered from Thapa,” Lachungpa said. The value of dried Yarsagumba is $3,000 to $15,000 a kg in the international market, Lachungpa said. This puts the value of the haul between Rs 19 lakh and Rs 97 lakh.

Besides being an aphrodisiac, it is used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine as a substance to cure problems related to respiration, kidney and liver cirrhosis.

The Sikkim crackdown comes after the arrest of two Czechs, entomologist Petr Svacha and his aide Emil Kucera, on June 22 from the fringe of the Singalila National Park in neighbouring Darjeeling. They are accused of illegally collecting rare beetles, butterflies and larvae.

Yarsagumba is generally found in the protected forest areas of north, east and west Sikkim, at altitudes of 3000 to 5000 meters above the sea level. The fungus is also found in the Tibetan plateau. Yarsagumba is also referred to as caterpillar fungus. Lachungpa said a team of officials had been formed for further investigation and prosecution of those arrested in the racket.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080711/jsp/bengal/story_9535146.jsp

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When i started my blog on Sikkim way back in 2007, i had it clear on my mind that this blog shall help people look out for knowledge on Sikkim. I always wanted a knowledge house about Sikkim, its past, present and future. I do not know over the years how much did i succeed but my determination to let other understand my Sikkim is always giving me a push. with regards Shital Pradhan (himalayanreview@gmail.com)

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