The caterpillar fungus, a cash cow for Tibetans, may die out in China in two decades due to over-exploitation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Shanghai Daily reported Monday, citing experts. Diggers of the yellowish fungus, also known as “worm grass”, have complained that their income was not even enough to cover costs, mainly a fee varying from 5,000 yuan (US$817) to 50,000 yuan levied by local authorities according to the acreage where they are allowed to dig. The fungus, which fetches up to 300,000 yuan per kilogram, is a traditional Tibetan cure-all that is believed to help slow the aging process, boost the immune system and even fight cancer, the report said. However, the lucrative trade has prolonged the normal harvesting period from 60 days to more than 70 days, causing severe damage to the worm grass’ growth cycle and severely depleting production, a botanist was quoted as saying.
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