SIKKIM NEWS: Himalayan Viagra auctioned, five arrested released

SIKKIM NEWS: Himalayan Viagra auctioned, five arrested released – whiff of high corruption suspected ?!!

Yarshagumba that is weighed or sold only when dry - how can it dry up further from 2.1 kgs to just 700 gms within days ?!!

From Haal Khabar
Posted By Pravin

Gangtok, July 29: The Sikkim Forest Department today auctioned the Himalayan Viagra seized from illegal suppliers last week. In an auction held at the state forest department here today, the rare Himalayan aphrodisiac herb weighing just 700 Gms was auctioned for Rs.45,000.

The auctioneers had fixed the basic rate at Rs.42,000 while, one among the two bidders Mr. Mangal Rai won it by bidding Rs.45,000. (Open or closed bidding ?!!)

If the forest department officials are to be believed, the Himalayan Viagra that weighed 2.10 Kgs during seizure last Friday dried up to mere 700 gms. The herb was conventionally dried to avoid damage from moisture, they said. (how absurd, stolen most likely ?!!)

Interestingly, while the state police seized the Himalayan Viagra last Friday, its initial weight of 2.47 Kg was said to be only 2.10 kgs, within hours of its seizure. And today it weighed only 700 gms.  The price was pegged at around Rs.60,000 per Kg.

Sikkim Police had last Friday arrested five persons, who were trying to smuggle around 2kg of caterpillar fungus (Himalayan Viagra), known for its aphrodisiac properties.

After a five hour long chase, the police arrested the smugglers for having in possession 2.10 Kg of Himalayan Viagra (Yarcha Gombuk) worth 6.75 lakhs in the international market. Acting on a tip off, the police held Bhim Bahadur Rai (20), Pawan Pradhan (34), Bikash Gurung (27), Suk Bahadur Subba (26) and Nar Bahadur Gurung from TNA gate complex in Sikkim capital Gangtok.

“The case against them has been compounded. All five accused have paid fine of Rs.25,000 each under Wildlife Protection Act. 1972. They will be released soon.

On enquiry they revealed that the goods were illegally collected from Kanchenjunga National Park, Lachen Area of North Sikkim and they were charged under the Wildlife Protection Act. The accused requested that the case be compounded. Inquiry also revealed that they were not big businessman, they supplied small quantity for personal use only”, said the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), State Forest Department, and Auction Committee Member.

The accused were arrested for engaging in illegal supply of Himalayan Viagra collected from Kanchanjunga National Park area in North Sikkim – 8000 ft and above. The total weight of the medicinal herb was 2.10 Kg, the police said.

The Himalayan Viagra is sold at Rs.2.70 lakhs per Kg, while the total consignment has been calculated to be worth over 1500 US $ per Kg in the international market.

The consignment and the arrested persons were then sent to the state wildlife authorities, who took up the case.

“Their act was illegal because it was against the state government notification in 2009, which said that they had to get prior permission for doing so. But they did not inform anybody so action was initiated against them. We have intensified field staff both within and outside the protected areas where the herb is widely found”, he added.

The police also seized the Bolero SK-04/8416, used for smuggling the Viagra.

Yarcha Gombuk, commonly known as Himalayan Viagra often in local language called ‘Kira Jhar’ grows at higher altitude. Yarcha Gombuk 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 Tibet.

Under the wildlife conservation and protection act, collection of the Viagra and other forest products from reserve forests, sanctuaries and national parks without prior permission is illegal and attracts penalties of fines and imprisonment, depending on the degree of the crime.

SIKKIM HERITAGE: Tallest & oldest tags on Sikkim trees – Contenders many but hunt still on for heritage giants – the consciousness rises as the state grows with good education ?!!

The juniper tree in Lachung, one of the contenders for the heritage status - wisdom of ages ?!! (Prabin Khaling)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, July 29: Who is the oldest giant of them all? It is yet to be found out. A Sikkim government project launched last year to hunt for the most towering of the trees, as well as the oldest in each species, remains an ongoing process with more contenders coming up for the heritage status.

“We have received reports of around 35 such trees of various species, and 20 have been shortlisted so far. Some more reports are coming in which will be verified,” said Usha Ganguli-Lachungpa, a senior research officer (wildlife) of the state forest department.

The search for Sikkim’s tallest and oldest trees, launched in the first quarter of 2009 as part of the forest department’s centenary year celebrations, is an ongoing process which includes incentives for the searchers.

“The heritage trees and sites in the forest areas of Sikkim will be identified and local stakeholders like the joint forest management committees, who protect such trees, will be felicitated by the department at appropriate programmes,” said Anil Mainra, the additional principal chief conservator of forests said.

Mainra said villagers had been involved in the protection of such trees and sites in the forest areas for generations. The objective of the search mission is to generate awareness about protecting the trees as an integral part of Sikkim’s diversity, he said.

The hunt has yielded some results and searchers have cited several trees that could be contenders for the “heritage” status. These include nine trees including a juniper with a girth of about 42 feet at Sevo reserve forest, Lachung, in North Sikkim. It was honoured as the “first proposed heritage” tree during International Rhododendron Festival this year.

Thirteen trees from South Sikkim including a fig with a girth of 29ft and a height of 95ft have also been put on the list. The searchers also found 10 trees in East Sikkim including a ficus with girth 33ft and height of 150ft. Three pines have been shortlisted by the department in West Sikkim. One of them has a girth of 21ft and a height 120ft.

“Can we find any tree bigger/older than these? We must find out and document such old giants so they can be formally recognised as biodiversity heritage trees and given due status,” state forest secretary S.T. Lachungpa had written in the department’s centenary celebrations souvenir magazine.

The forest department while launching the hunt had highlighted the need to locate and identify all such trees, collect their history from the local villagers and generate a photo documentation. There is also a need to document biodiversity heritage sites like the wetlands (taal) and water sources (boudha), the department said.

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