Sir Peter Scott Fund project: Guggul Tree, Rajasthan
- To conserve Commiphora wightii in its natural habitat through developing protected area networks
- To involve local communities (rural and tribal peoples) as well as local authorities in in situ conservation
- To provide education on the value of succulent plants and the need for conservation and sustainable use.
Commiphora wightii is a highly valued medicinal plant with a range reduced to two Indian states.
It has been used as a key part of Ayruvedic medicine for nearly 3,000 years.
Known locally as the ‘Guggul Tree’ or 'Guggul Plant', its sap or resin is collected and widely used in modern medicine to treat heart ailments, help reduce cholesterol and to aid a variety of other complaints.
Many factors have combined to threaten the habitat where this valuable species is found; over-exploitation by pharmaceuticals, lack of cultivation for medicinal use and the loss of habitat to farming and urbanization.
This project is working on three approaches to protect the plant’s survival in Rajasthan State.
The first is to study geographical variations in levels of ‘guggulsterone’ (the medicinal component found in the plant’s resin), so that high yielding habitats can be used for large scale cultivation.
The second aim is to develop protected areas to conserve the species in its natural environment.
Thirdly, the project aims to educate tribes-people, rural communities and local authorities on the need for conservation measures and sustainable use of this plant.
(May 2008) Progress to date has seen resin collected from eight different locations and high guggulsterone yielding genetic types have been identified.
Plants have been cultivated on a large-scale in locations most suitable to produce gugglesterone for medicinal harvesting, thus easing the pressure on wild populations.
Plants are being mass-grown for reintroduction to the wild in different areas of Rajasthan.
(September 2009) This project has been successfully completed. In collaboration with the rural people, new seedlings of this medicinally important plant have been cultivated from cuttings and planted in their wild natural habitats. Awareness training programmes were set up in 23 villages in order to spread the conservation message to those communities most heavily reliant upon the resources this species provides (herbal medicines, food, fuel and household implements).