Overharvesting turns ‘Himalayan viagra’ into a ‘vulnerable’ species

  • The world’s costliest fungus — Ophiocordyceps sinensis — also known as Himalayan Viagra, which sells in international markets for upwards of Rs 20 lakh per kg, has entered the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
  • The list has placed the fungus, known for its aphrodisiac and rejuvenation properties, in the ‘vulnerable’ category.
  • The fungus is endemic to the Himalayan and Tibetan plateau and is found in China, Bhutan, Nepal and India.
  • In India, it is primarily found in Uttarakhand in the higher reaches of districts like Pithoragarh and Chamoli.

International Union for Conservation Of Nature (IUCN)

  • It is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organisations.
  • Created in 1948, IUCN has evolved into the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network.
  • As the only environmental organisation with official United Nations Observer Status.
  • Member organisations meet every four years at the IUCN World Conservation Congress to set priorities and agree on the Union’s work programme.

IUCN played a fundamental role in the creation of key international conventions, including:

  1. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971),
  2. The World Heritage Convention (1972),
  3. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, (1974) and
  4. The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992).
  • IUCN is the first global environmental union.
  • IUCN Programme 2017- 2020 has three priority areas:
  • Valuing and conserving nature
  • Promoting and supporting effective and equitable governance of natural resources
  • Deploying nature-based solutions to societal challenges
  • The IUCN Red List assesses the conservation status of species at a global level.
  • Data from The IUCN Red List are used as indicators for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 15: Life on Land.
  • The IUCN Red List Categories define the extinction risk of species assessed.
  • Nine categories extend from NE (Not Evaluated) to EX (Extinct).
  • Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) and Vulnerable (VU) species are considered to be threatened with extinction.
  • The IUCN Red List Index is used by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to monitor progress towards achieving the Aichi Targets.
  • Do you know: The year 1500 is the cut-off date for recording extinctions on the IUCN Red List.

The Red List Index

  • The IUCN Red List Index (RLI) provides a clearer view of real trends within different taxonomic groups, and for biodiversity as a whole.
  • The RLI is available for groups in which all species have been assessed at least twice.
  • Currently, the Index is available for five groups: birds, mammals, amphibians, corals and cycads.

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