Authorities take aim at illegal wildlife trade
MYANMAR’S rich biodiversity continues to be damaged by illegal trade and the killing of elephants and other wild animals.
Of the over 20 wild elephants that died from January through September, 17 were killed by poachers, according to the Forest Department.
More than 46 elephants were slaughtered last year, and poachers killed 84 of the 165 wild elephants that died from 2010 to 2017, it said.
Most of the poaching occurred in Ayeyarwady and Yangon regions. In Ayeyarwady, poachers killed five of the seven wild elephants that died, while in Yangon, they killed three of the four wild elephants that died from January to September.
The wild elephants were killed for their ivory, teeth, skin and trunks, said wildlife conservation activists.
U Win Naing Thaw, director of the department’s Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division, said that poaching of elephants has declined slightly.
“This year, there were 17 poaching cases and arrests of 42 people for killing wild elephants and illegal trade of elephant parts,” he said.
“Illegal trading is less than in previous years, as people are more aware of the problem and are cooperating more,” said U Win Naing Thaw.
There are an estimated 1400 to 2000 elephants in the country, but the numbers could be lower, according to elephant conservation groups.
Local and foreign conservationists have conducted education programmes to raise awareness of the problem.
Some laws were amended this year in an effort to reduce elephant poaching and illicit wildlife trade.
The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (bicameral legislature) enacted the amended 1992 Forestry Law on September 20, and the Protection of Biodiversity and Conservation Areas Law replaced the 1994 Protection of Wildlife and Conservation of Natural Areas Law on May 21.
The department expressed confidence that the new laws will reduce the illegal wildlife trade, especially in Yangon.
The Yangon City Development Committee has carried out an education campaign to raise awareness about the illegal wildlife and products trade in the city’s markets.
Aside from elephants, other animal parts traded in the illicit business include those from tigers, bears, pangolins, rhinos, mountain goats, Indian pied hornbills, gaurs, leopards, tortoises and snakes.
To demonstrate their seriousness about the campaign against the illegal trade, the government incinerated ivory and other wildlife parts worth US$1.3 million in Nay Pyi Taw in October.
In the first action of its kind for Myanmar, the government destroyed 277 pieces of ivory, 227 elephant and animal bones, 45 animal skins, 1544 animal horns, 45.5 kilogrammes of pangolin scales and 128 parts of other animals.
What effect these actions will have on the illegal wildlife trade remains to be seen, according to experts.