Yangon weekend pa y celebrates wildlife ban
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