Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 9, pp 2263–2281 | Cite as

Steps towards sustainable harvest of Ophiocordyceps sinensis in Bhutan

  • Paul F. Cannon
  • Nigel L. Hywel-Jones
  • Norbert Maczey
  • Lungten Norbu
  • Tshitila
  • Tashi Samdup
  • Phurba Lhendup
Original Paper


The insect-pathogenic fungus Ophiocordyceps sinensis (better known as Cordyceps sinensis) is harvested over much of the Himalayan plateau as a highly prized remedy in traditional Oriental medicine. Over the past 10 years its financial value has increased dramatically, with collectors paid as much as US $12,500 kg−1 for top-quality material. This is causing significant distortion to local economies, and there is widespread concern that the current rate of collection is unsustainable. This paper introduces the fungus and its insect hosts, documents some of the biological and social constraints to achieving sustainability, describes the socioeconomic climate within which harvest and sale occurs in Bhutan, and details the measures put in place by the Royal Government of Bhutan to promote wise management of this valuable natural resource.


Ophiocordyceps sinensis Yartsa gunbu Yartsa guenbub Thitarodes Sustainable harvest Traditional Oriental medicine Bhutan 



The research described in this paper was funded by a grant from the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative, to a partnership between CABI, CoRRB (Ministry of Agriculture, Bhutan) and BIOTEC (National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Thailand). We received assistance from numerous individuals, agencies and institutions in Bhutan, including staff of the Nature Conservation Division, the National Biodiversity Centre, the Agricultural Marketing Service and the Institute of Traditional Medicine. We would like to pay particular tribute to the CoRRB field research staff (especially Kuenzang Dhendup, Dawa Tshering and T.B. Rai), who spent many weeks at high altitude in often arduous conditions to gather baseline data on Ophiocordyceps sinensis and its host moths. Information on sales at auction was provided by Sonam Tobgay (AMS) and Dophu Drupka and Sonam Wangmo (CoRRB).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul F. Cannon
    • 1
  • Nigel L. Hywel-Jones
    • 2
  • Norbert Maczey
    • 1
  • Lungten Norbu
    • 3
  • Tshitila
    • 3
  • Tashi Samdup
    • 3
  • Phurba Lhendup
    • 4
  1. 1.CABI Europe UK CentreEghamUK
  2. 2.National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC)Klong Luang, PathumthaniThailand
  3. 3.Council for Renewable Natural Resources Research of BhutanMinistry of AgricultureThimphuBhutan
  4. 4.Research and Monitoring SectionBumdeling Wildlife SanctuaryTrashiyangtseBhutan

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