August 3, 2015, Thimphu: In one of the biggest busts related to illegal trade of Non-Wood Forest Products (NTFPs), Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve (earlier called Toorsa Strict Nature Reserve), on 22 July 2015, seized 84 kgs Juru Kewa (Panax pseudogensing) and 116 kgs Putishing (Neopicrorhiza kurroa) at Chuphaka above Damthang Helipad in Haa.
Two illegal traders with six horses were apprehended by a 12-member park official returning from survey and habitat mapping of White Poppy (Meconopssis superba) in the northern fringes of the reserve. They were on their way back from a week-long survey of Blue Poppy species found exclusively in the reserve.
According to park official, Ugyen Takchu, towards the evening, sometime at 4 PM that day, they came across a group of people with horses along the route believed to be popular for illegal trade. “We became suspicion noticing their nervousness,” he said. “Upon investigation, we found that all the horse loads were filled with forestry produce,” he added.
The products were immediately seized upon ascertaining that they have no legal documents to justify the possession of such products. The weight of the products in the wet form was also immediately determined and brought to office.
Panax pseudogensing is listed under schedule I of Forest and Nature Conservation Rules (FNCR) 2006, which means its collection is restricted. The rule states that those found with illegal possession of the plant is liable for the fine of Nu. 50,000 per kg while the fine for Neopicrorhiza kurroa range from Nu. 5000 to 50,000 per kg excluding compensation at fair market value.
The investigation found that Panax pseudogensing was accumulation from small local collectors in Haa while Putishing was brought from Paro. The illegal trade is conducted mainly because of the supposedly medicinal value content of the plant species.
Meanwhile, forestry officials in Haa, on 24 July this year also seized another 11 kgs of Panax pseudogensing and 3.5 kgs of Gastodia elata, an orchid species, from Jyenkana in Haa. Although the park inferred that a kg of Gastodia elata fetches Nu. 300 in local market, no mention is found in FNCR.
Concerned of such development, the park convened an adhoc meeting with different forestry offices under Haa, which in addition to curbing the illegal practices, discussed also on how to prevent illegal harvesting and trade of any forest produce. They felt that concentrating on apprehension alone is not justifiable after damages are already done. Public awareness, they agreed was most important to which the park sent notifications to all stakeholders.
The meeting also decided that in addition to disbursing notifications emphasizing that all collections of NWFPs must be done in consultation with the relevant forestry offices, the forestry offices must also step up patrolling and enforcement activities.
The Social Forestry and Extension Division (SFED) of Forest and Park Services Department had formulated an interim framework for management and marketing of NWFPs. The framework specifically mention that for collecting Putishing, a CITES clearance is also required besides forestry permits.
Although, the framework has detailed out management and marketing of 60 NWFPs species, Gastodia elata was found not listed. The reason, NWFPs focal in the department, Tshewang Dorji said, is because the market for the species is just emerging. “We first need to do proper study and research,” he said. “But if found unnecessary, we will include it when we revise the framework.”
Reported by: Ugyen Tshering
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