The unexpected death of a young forester due to the altitude sickness during cordyceps patrolling on Monday serves as a stark reminder to others that are engaged in similar patrolling duties and cordyceps collections activities, of the lack of required equipment in averting such incident in the future.
A forester from the Paro Territorial Division was on his official duty to oversee the cordycep patrolling at a place called Nubri for about a month beginning May 17 this year when he succumbed to altitude sickness. According to the forest officials, the office does not have any special equipment to ward off travel fatigue in the ultra-thin mountain air.
Nubri is a buffer zone between Paro and Tibet, it is about two days official walk from Tsento gewog under Paro, and people from Paro have ventured, for years, through this place to reach Yagsa for cordyceps collection.
As per the government rules, members of the communities living within the cordyceps growing areas are allowed to dispatch three family members to collect the fungi every season. The cordyceps collection season of three months begin legally from first of June every year.
However, in order to ensure that the collections are done as per the cordyceps collection and marketing rules, government stations the forestry officials at the collection sites. They ensure that the collection of the prized fungi by the highlanders is done strictly as per the rules in effect. Such monitoring is also done to ensure the sustainability of the resources.
It is said that the forester reached Nubri on June 29 on official duty. Two days later, he succumbed to altitude sickness.
According to the Paro Chief Forestry Officer (CFO), Kaka Tshering the foresters on patrol are provided with a first-aid kit and he stated ‘Nothing more than that.’ This, he said is because the forest offices do not have any emergency equipment like oxygen bags or altitude acclimatization tools except for the basic kit.
The Paro CFO further said those who venture in the high altitude should be outfitted with required-equipment to help then survive in such harsh high altitudes.
However, with such a fatality, the CFO also said that it is very critical to have equipment for field officials. “Without it, it is really risky for them to venture such patrolling,” he added.
The risk does not only refer to the patrolling team, but also the cordyceps collectors who have to often climb high up in the mountain. .
The deceased was from Zhemgang and he was in service for two and half years.