CANACONA: If experts are to be believed, the overexploitation of the natural resource in the form of delicious mushrooms might lead to the extinction of these species forever from the forests of Goa.
This view was corroborated by Dr Cajie Silva who has done an extensive study on plants and animals and has raised concerns about the future of the wild edible fungi.
“If more awareness is not created and stricter rules are not applied in the forested areas the ‘Termitomyces’ mushrooms will be lost forever” he said.
It is to be noted that normally Termitomyces mushrooms start sprouting in August under appropriate environmental conditions and locals staying on the periphery of the forest scan the forests for foraging these edible mushrooms.
With these mushrooms now commanding a premium rate, the wild mushrooms hunters have increased in leaps and bounds.
Without much knowledge of symbiotic relationship of the mushrooms with the termites, these locals are blamed for uprooting all the mushrooms leaving not even a single one to mature and to release spores, which will give a good harvest next season. Some foragers even dig out the mushrooms with the entire stock as it fetches a higher price than the one cut at the ground level.
Once available in thousands and sold in hundreds, the edible mushrooms are now sold in tens in packs of 25 and 50.
Dr Silva added that there should be at least four mushrooms left behind for it to leave enough spores for the mushrooms to grow next season.
However there are more devastating consequences of the uncontrolled foraging for the endemic mushrooms.
“Mushrooms, like all other fungi, propagate through spores. When they are removed before they mature, usually for consumption, no spores can develop, leading to lesser mushrooms of that species in the further years. Moreover not all spores will survive till the next season. This practice of overexploitation normally due to ignorance has lead to many fertile anthills to become barren since so many years,” Dr Silva stated further.
The barren anthill can only be rejuvenated back to yield mushrooms only if new spores from active anthills get scattered, which mostly is done by wind and snakes as the spores attach to the body of the snake and fall on the these barren anthills while these snakes slither over the anthills.
“It’s a cycle, both the ant hill residents and the mushrooms are interdependent on each other, we have seen many fertile anthills turning into infertile ultimately flattening to the ground due to natural forces. And after years of this damaging practise, people are seeing its effects in these years,” Dr Silva lamented.
Incidentally, the government of Goa has been encouraging cultivation of button and oyster mushrooms on a large scale and in 1992 had banned the harvesting of Termitomyces mushrooms. But in 1993, the government restricted the ban only in wildlife sanctuaries allowing the inhabitants of the sanctuary to harvest them only for consumption.
Speaking on this Shalita a natural enthusiast working as a research associate with TERI said the village Biodiversity Management Committee can regulate the collection of mushrooms and formulate a plan for conservation of the areas in which they are found.
Vinay Tubki, Chairman of Biodiversity Management Committee of Shristal panchayat from Canacona added that as a part of conservation of biodiversity in their village, they have created awareness amongst the residents living on the fringe of the forest not to pluck all the mushrooms and keep at least four unplucked for the spores to get dispersed.
“It is high time that under proper guidance, immediate measures need to be taken to protect and preserve the endemic mushrooms of Goa for posterity, otherwise they will be lost forever like many species which got extinct or are on the verge of extinction” added Tubki.