Tiger protection gets a boost
The Forestry Department stepped up efforts to promote the conservation of tigers, as illegal activities such a gold mining and timber trafficking continue to harm its habitat.
TIGER conservation, which draws a lot of criticism in Myanmar, is stepping up its promotion of the tiger reserve through regional workshops, organised by the forestry department, in recent weeks.
The regional workshops aim at developing best-practices and collecting suggestions from locals living near the protected area designated by the national tiger action plan in 2003.
“During our second regional workshop in Sagaing on August 20, we found that locals from Sagaing and Kachin pay attention to tiger protection. That is a good sign,” U Khin Mg Win, director of the forestry department told The Myanmar Times.
Myanmar has been implementing a plan for tiger conservation since 1998. Accordingly, local communities take care of the designated area; while at the same time benefiting from its sustainable use through ecotourism.
“In the workshop, we talked about management plans, the different projects affecting the area, and the need for preys for the tigers,” he said.
Illegal gold mining and timber trafficking in the forest have been a threat for tigers living in the region. “In the previous government, there was mismanagement with the conservation of the site: Gold mining was allowed in the forest. We know that tigers moved away for three years as the zone was used as a workplace by human. Noises from the use of cvhainsaws disrupted the tigers,” Ko Kyaw Min Htut, founder of the Thuriya center at Mingin told The Myanmar Times.
The government of Myanmar has designated Hukawng valley as a protected forest. It is the world’s largest tiger reserve. According to a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society released in October 2010, only 50 tigers remain in Hukawng valley. The number of tigers is declining on account of gold mining, oil, and farming projects in Hukawng. A Kachin resident told The Myanmar Times that he does not hear tigers anymore.
“Sagaing also has a tiger conservation area bordering Kachin State. I think the tigers moved to Sagaing for safety reason. I can’t tell where the tigers are. We also suspect they have moved to another area. The locations are kept secret,” said U Khin Mg Win.
U Khin Mg Win admitted that the number of tigers was sharply declining in 2003. However, thanks to prints and information from the locals, the forestry department estimated the number of tigers to have been on the rise in 2015-2016.
“Currently, we are under-staffed and under-funded,” he added.
Ko Kyaw Min Htut suggested that awareness training, allocating incomes for locals and capacity building for forestry staff are the best ways to protect the tigers. “In my opinion, the tigers moved partly because NGO staff members set up film equipment in the forest. The best would be for the government to restrict the area to everybody.”