Yangon week­end pa y cel­e­brates wildlife ban

The Myanmar Times - - Metro - JOHN GRAFILO John@mm­times.com

THE week­end rocked in Maha Ban­doola Park in down­town Yangon as en­vi­ron­ment ad­vo­cates and peo­ple from all walks of life cel­e­brated the lat­est de­ci­sion of the gov­ern­ment for an im­me­di­ate ban on wildlife sales in Yangon in the lat­est edi­tion of the Voices for Wildlife Fes­ti­val.

Yangon is no­to­ri­ous for its il­le­gal wildlife and wildlife-parts trade in the re­gion and the re­gional gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to en­force a blan­ket ban on the trade in Septem­ber was seen as a break­through in the global fight against the il­licit trade.

The ban, which is be­ing im­ple­mented in co­op­er­a­tion with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional con­ser­va­tion groups, made Yangon the first ma­jor city in South­east Asia to move to­wards be­com­ing free of the il­le­gal wildlife trade.

“We con­grat­u­late the Re­gional Gov­ern­ment of Yangon on tak­ing this step to end this crime across the re­gion and will con­tinue work­ing closely with the na­tional, re­gional and state gov­ern­ments to sup­port the roll out of this ban na­tion­wide,” said Christy Wil­liams, Coun­try Di­rec­tor, WWF Myan­mar.

The Bri­tish Em­bassy which was a part­ner in the Voices for Wildlife Fes­ti­val, hailed the de­ci­sion of the re­gional gov­ern­ment to take a bold step in pro­tect­ing wildlife in the coun­try.

“This an­nounce­ment shows the Yangon Gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to end the il­le­gal sale of wildlife. I hope that other re­gions can fol­low Yangon’s lead,” said David Hall, Charge D’Af­faires at the Bri­tish Em­bassy. “Myan­mar, with its abun­dant and di­verse wildlife, is par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to this hor­rific trade. We must all work to­gether to tackle it.”

The fun in Maha Ban­doola started early as peo­ple were treated to the three gi­ant ele­phant, pan­golin, and tiger sculp­tures covered in more than 27,600 pieces of Myan­mar tra­di­tional gold leaf, which were cre­ated by street artist Arker Kyaw in col­lab­o­ra­tion with bam­boo sculp­tor U Myint.

U Phyo Khin, who was pass­ing by Maha Ban­doola af­ter col­lect­ing his two chil­dren from a nearby school, had his hands full ex­plain­ing to his kids the art­works.

“This is good way for our chil­dren to learn about the dif­fer­ent an­i­mals found in our coun­try,” he said. “I hope they would teach the chil­dren in school how to con­serve the an­i­mals and their im­por­tance in our lives.”

U Kyaw Thein, a ven­dor sell­ing fried snacks, said the fes­ti­val is a good way to teach the chil­dren to take care of the forests.

“With­out the forests we will die,” he said. “We will lose many of our an­i­mals if we con­tinue to de­stroy our forests.”

Street artist Arker Kyaw, who has been very ac­tive in en­vi­ron­ment con­ser­va­tion ad­vo­cacy, un­der­scored the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing the coun­try’s forests and wildlife.

“Our wildlife is our true wealth, more pre­cious than gold and it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of us all to pro­tect this wealth, our nat­u­ral her­itage, for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” he said.

Dur­ing last year’s Voices for Wildlife Fes­ti­val, Arker Kyaw brought the “We Love Ele­phants” in­stal­la­tion to life, a cre­ation fea­tur­ing seven su­per­sized pa­pier-mâché ele­phant sculp­tures. The big­gest one, stand­ing at 5.6m high, 5.8m long and 2.15m wide, was recog­nised as the “largest sup­ported pa­pier-mâché sculp­ture in the world” by the Guin­ness World Records in Au­gust.

Fri­day’s event also saw sev­eral photo booths, which fea­tured dif­fer­ent an­i­mals where chil­dren and their par­ents or friends can have their pho­tos taken.

Through­out the day, vis­i­tors painted and played in the mixed me­dia art zone, bought wildlife-friendly crafts and sou­venirs for sale, en­joyed plas­tic-free snacks, and went up close with tigers through an im­mer­sive vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence.

There was also pre­miere screen­ing of ZarchiDam­loup’s short film “Bo Bo and Mo Mo”, which por­trays the love be­tween a boy name Bo Bo and a young ele­phant, and the Voices for Wildlife mu­sic video.

The event was capped with singing and dance per­for­ma­ces by var­i­ous artists who have been strong ad­vo­cates of en­vi­ron­ment con­ser­va­tion.

Ko Nyi Phyae, who was en­joy­ing the mu­sic at the fes­ti­val along with his three other friends, ad­mit­ted he and his friends just hap­pen to pass by the park but they de­cided to stay on and watch the per­for­mances.

“It’s good we de­cided to hang around,” he said. “But it was re­ally fun and in­for­ma­tive too. We didn’t even know that there was a wildlife trade ban in the city. But we are glad they are im­ple­ment­ing the ban be­cause our tigers and ele­phants are al­ready dis­ap­pear­ing.

Since 1994, the sale of pro­tected wildlife prod­ucts was been de­clared il­le­gal through­out the coun­try, but en­force­ment was weak and Yangon be­came a ma­jor hub of the il­licit ac­tiv­ity.

The Min­istry of Re­sources and En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion amended The Pro­tec­tion of Wildlife and Con­ser­va­tion of Nat­u­ral Ar­eas Law 1994, im­pos­ing tougher penal­ties for vi­o­la­tors.

Un­der the amended law, those caught com­mer­cially breed­ing pro­tected wildlife faced pun­ish­ment of up to three years im­pris­on­ment and or a fine of up to K500,000 (US$320), while those caught for hunt­ing, sell­ing, pos­sess­ing, car­ry­ing or trans­fer­ring pro­tected en­dan­gered wildlife or their parts face up to five years im­pris­on­ment and or a fine of K1 mil­lion.

The killing, hunt­ing, hurt­ing, col­lect­ing, sell­ing, pos­ses­sion with­out ap­proval, car­ry­ing or trans­fer­ring of pro­tected en­dan­gered spieces of wildlife un­der to­tal pro­tec­tion or un­der pro­tec­tion and con­trol against in­ter­na­tional trade or their parts or de­riv­a­tive ma­te­ri­als is pun­ish­able by up to 10 years im­pris­on­ment.

But the prob­lem of the coun­try goes be­yond wildlife poach­ing.

Myan­mar also has one of the high­est rates of de­for­esta­tion in the world. The United Na­tions Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion es­ti­mated that be­tween 1990 and 2010, the coun­try lost 19 per­cent or about 7.44 mil­lion hectares of for­est cover.

The gov­ern­ment is set to come up within the year a na­tional strat­egy to stem for­est degra­da­tion as part of the coun­try’s ef­forts to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of cli­mate change. – With San Lin Tun

Pho­tos: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

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