Tiger pro­tec­tion gets a boost

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Front Page - khin­suwai@mm­times.com KHIN SU WAI

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.”

A three-month old tiger cub is seen at Yangon Zoo on July 4. Photo: Thiri Lu

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