Cau­tion­ary tails: Learn­ing from neigh­bours to counter species loss in Myan­mar

The Myanmar Times - - News - KYI KYI SWAY news­room@mm­times.com

MYAN­MAR is pre­sented with a unique win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to com­bat species loss and habi­tat de­struc­tion, says a new report from the World Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion.

De­clin­ing an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions is an is­sue the world over, and Myan­mar is poised to take on hard-learnt lessons from other coun­tries in the re­gion.

The species pop­u­la­tions of ver­te­brate an­i­mals world­wide have al­ready de­creased by 58 per­cent be­tween 1970 and 2012, ac­cord­ing to WWF’s bi­en­nial 2016 “Liv­ing Planet” report.

“The most com­mon threat to de­clin­ing an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions is the loss and degra­da­tion of habi­tat,” the report read. And it’s not just flora and fauna that suf­fer the im­pacts of en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion. “In­creas­ingly, peo­ple are vic­tims of the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing state of na­ture.”

Sci­en­tists sug­gest the earth has tran­si­tioned from the Holocene into a new ge­o­log­i­cal epoch called the An­thro­pocene, which casts the fu­ture of myr­iad species into ques­tion – by and large as a re­sult of hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties.

Yet as an in­ad­ver­tent by-prod­uct of its years of iso­la­tion, large swathes of land in Myan­mar re­main ver­dant and un­touched.

“Myan­mar is uniquely po­si­tioned to avoid the mis­takes of many of its neigh­bours,” coun­try di­rec­tor of WWF Christy Wil­liams said.

Myan­mar’s forests con­tain a rich ar­ray of wildlife. How­ever, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion con­sul­tant and founder of the Myan­mar Green Net­work Daw Saw Mon Theint said this is in­creas­ingly un­der threat as large tracts are given over to busi­ness in­ter­ests. Land use poli­cies that per­mit the con­ver­sion of habi­ta­tions into plan­ta­tions have a pro­found im­pact on the coun­try’s bio­di­ver­sity, she says.

Tanintharyi Re­gion is faced with ma­jor habi­tat loss due to a sharp in­crease in the amount of land de­voted to palm oil plan­ta­tions.

The long-term im­pacts of such poli­cies are per­haps demon­strated best by fel­low ASEAN na­tion In­done­sia, where decades of palm oil cul­ti­va­tion and wide­spread il­le­gal burn­ing prac­tices have caused un­told en­vi­ron­men­tal dev­as­ta­tion and enor­mous emis­sions.

The lead­ing cause of habi­tat de­struc­tion and over­ex­ploita­tion of wildlife is tied to hu­man food pro­duc­tion – both di­rectly and in­di­rectly.

This is some­thing Myan­mar can avoid, Ms Wil­liams said. By­pass­ing pol­lut­ing en­ergy sources and mov­ing straight to re­new­able op­tions, along with en­act­ing safe­guards to en­sure a sus­tain­able pri­vate sec­tor busi­ness sec­tor, can pro­tect the coun­try’s unique ecosys­tems and bio­di­ver­sity.

But Myan­mar’s il­le­gal log­ging prob­lem – with Kachin State at its epi­cen­tre – con­tin­ues to present a ma­jor con­cern, said Daw Saw Mon Theint.

Myan­mar is the third-worst coun­try in the world for de­for­esta­tion rates, ac­cord­ing to the UN Food and Agriculture Or­ga­ni­za­tion. Ac­cord­ing to a For­est Re­sources As­sess­ment, Myan­mar’s for­est cover was 46.96 per­cent in 2010. By 2015, it had fallen to 42.92pc.

Daw Saw Mon Theint also urges that the coun­try’s bur­geon­ing il­le­gal wildlife trade also needs to be tack­led in a mean­ing­ful way by the au­thor­i­ties.

WWF warns wildlife pop­u­la­tions could de­cline by as much as 67pc by 2020, if con­struc­tive ac­tion is not taken.

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