Extinction threat

A recent decision by the Himachal Pradesh government may not be good news to the endangered Himalayan yew (Taxus baccata). The government has allowed collection and export of yew, which is in great demand in the pharmaceutical industry for manufacturing drugs to treat cancer.

In 1995, the government had announced that it would not give permission for the exloitation of endangered species such as the Himalayan yew. But to collect more revenue, the government reversed the decision and allowed collection and export of yew leaves the following year.

The government had, however, imposed certain restrictions and conditions on the collection. It was stipulated that the leaves would be collected from trees which were more than one metre in girth. Also, the plucking was to be confined to lower one-third of the crown. But as there were very few trees with a one-metre girth, younger trees are subjected to intensive lopping.