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    HomeWorldNepal Avalanche: Trio of 'Himalayan Viagra' Harvesters Unaccounted for

    Nepal Avalanche: Trio of ‘Himalayan Viagra’ Harvesters Unaccounted for

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    Three people are missing and 12 others were injured after an avalanche hit northwestern Nepal where a group of 15 people were picking yarchagumba, a parasitic fungus that grows on the body of a caterpillar. Yarchagumba is known locally as Himalayan Viagra and can fetch huge sums in neighboring China where it is used in herbal medicines. The group was in search of yarchagumba in the highlands of the Mugu district when they were hit by an avalanche on Saturday.

    Rescuers were hiking to the remote site after a helicopter was unable to land because of snowy weather. Yarchagumba is only found at altitudes above 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) and forms when the parasitic fungus lodges itself in a caterpillar, slowly killing it. No definitive research has been published on the beneficial qualities of the fungus, but Chinese herbalists believe it boosts sexual performance.

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    Over-harvesting has slashed populations by at least 30 percent over 15 years by 2020, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which listed it as “vulnerable” to extinction in its directory of threatened animal and plant species. Officials are still searching for two more missing yarchagumba collectors in the western Darchula district, after recovering three bodies from the avalanche-hit area last week.

    Spring is the beginning of Nepal’s climbing season when nearly a thousand mountaineers will try to summit Everest. Last month, three Nepali guides died after a chunk of falling glacial ice swept them into a deep crevasse on the avalanche-prone mountain.

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