Cairo: Saudi environment police have arrested a citizen accused of violating the country’s environment law while hunting for truffles, a seasonal edible fungus.
The man was caught for committing the violations of trespassing into a nature reserve in north-eastern Saudi Arabia in search of truffles, according to the Special Forces for Environmental Security (SFES).
Police said legal action had been taken against the man after he had illegally entered the Royal Imam Turki bin Abdullah reserve, and the seized fungus cache was handed over to the competent agencies.
Trespassing into protected zones in Saudi Arabia is punishable by fines of up to SR10,000, while tampering with vegetation signboards is penalised by a fine of SR5,000, SFES said.
The offender, moreover, bears the cost of repairing the resulting damage and pays unspecified compensations.
Collection of truffles, a desert edible fungus, is a favourite hobby for picnickers in the kingdom. Truffle hunting gets underway in January in rain-hit sites mainly in the Northern Borders and H’ail in north-western Saudi Arabia.
Hunters have to be attentive and careful while searching for the ripe fungus to ensure it will not be ruined during harvesting.
Truffles are usually in high demand in Saudi Arabia following rainfall, and are nicknamed the “daughter of thunder” because they grow after heavy rains.
The fungus market traditionally experiences a brisk business in several regions in the kingdom, mainly in the Northern Borders. Prized as a delicacy, several types of truffles are available at the Saudi market. Truffles retail for SR250 to SR600 per kilo, depending on the type and size.
In recent years, local festivals were held in several Saudi areas to promote the truffles with the aim of highlighting the link between the popular delicacy and the national heritage in the kingdom.