Monday, November 12, 2018

Focus on law enforcement in Myanmar as it moves to crack down on wildlife trade


Calls for an end to growing wildlife trade in Myanmar’s border areas have resulted in triggering government action to continue its ban on all illegal wildlife sales across the nation, according to Christy Williams, country director of WWF Myanmar.

“We stand ready to support the Yangon region government’s ban on wildlife sales. The next step is to officially announce this ban nationally, so that the whole of Myanmar can be free of wildlife crime,” he said in an interview. Last month, Yangon became the first city in Southeast Asia to become “illegal wildlife trade free”. In every district and township in Yangon region, anyone caught selling or carrying illegal wildlife products will now face enforcement under the new Protection of Biodiversity and Protected Areas Law enacted in May this year. “Now, we are working with Mandalay region. Hopefully, we can do the same thing in Mandalay soon, and will spread it to other parts of the country,” he said. “The next step is to work collectively for the enforcement of the new law, which is very strong. You will go to jail if you are found with any wildlife product in hand, according to the new law. It is very tough, and we need to cooperate to enforce it.”

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Thursday, November 01, 2018

Number of local visitors increases at Nat Pauk elephant camp


The number of local visitors has significantly increased at Nat Pauk elephant camp, which was opened in 2008 in Indaw Township, Katha District, Sagaing Region. Since 2016, Nat Pauk camp has been entertaining visitors with elephant shows, said Dr. Htoo Htoo Aung, the doctor in charge of Nat Pauk elephant camp.

“The number of visitors started to increase in October. If there are only a few visitors, we operate elephant shows with only nine elephants. We also reserve some elephants for those visitors who want to ride them. We have some other costs for the elephants, so we just run elephant shows with nine elephants. The remaining 13 elephants are kept at another elephant camp, which is one mile from Nat Pauk elephant camp. Initially, the camp operated the elephant shows for only foreign visitors, but since November 2016 we have been holding elephant shows for local visitors, as well,” said Dr. Htoo Htoo Aung.

Also, the camp has planted Navier grass on 1.5 acres of land, in a bid to become self-sufficient in feeding their 22 elephants, he added. Nat Pauk elephant camp is a natural habitat in Phat Sout forest reserve 33 in Indaw Township, which is drawing the attention of tourists.

Nat Pauk elephant camp was opened for visitors to watch elephants in their natural surroundings, as well as for local residents to earn an income from visitor arrivals.

Recently, the camp was unable to provide accommodations for overnight tourists, Dr. Htoo Htoo Aung said.

Myo Win Tun (Monywa)

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Alleged Elephant Poachers Arrested in Irrawaddy Forest Reserve


PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Region — Police arrested three alleged elephant poachers and seized their small arms in a forest reserve in Pathein, Irrawaddy Region, on Thursday.

A joint force of forestry police, local police, Forest Department personnel and staff from the Emergency Elephant Rescue Unit (EERU) arrested the alleged poachers while on patrol in the Thalek Kwar forest reserve. One poacher got away.

“We had to drive about 20 wild elephants off from some villages in Pathein Township recently. We assumed that there might be some elephant poachers around and carried out a patrol, and we arrested three elephant poachers,” U Lin Lin Tun, who heads the EERU, told The Irrawaddy.

The joint force spotted two suspicious-looking men on Thursday at about noon along Chaungtha-Ngwe Hsaung Road. One of the men got away but the other was arrested and identified as Saw Htoo Nyaw, 32. He was found with two daggers and three bottles of poison.

After interrogating him, police also arrested Naing Htet Kyaw, 18, and U Kyaw Ta Thein, 56, in the Thalek Kwar forest reserve and seized poison, a percussion rifle, ball bearings for bullets and other items often used for hunting elephants.

Saw Htoo Nyaw and U Kyaw Tha Thein are from Pathein Township’s Kyay Htauk Kwin village and were helping the poachers, Naing Htet Kyaw and Maung Aye, the man who escaped. Police said the two alleged poachers are from Mindon Township, in Magwe Region.

Police have accused the three men they caught of illegal weapons possession and of violating the Protection of Biodiversity and Conservation Areas Law. They are searching for Maung Aye.

“Poachers can hunt elephants here because of the assistance of locals. While poachers get 6 to 10 million kyats [$3,796 to $6,326] for an elephant, locals who assist in the poaching only get at most 500,000 kyats ($316). It is not worth it to be arrested and have their lives ruined for that amount of money. So I’d like to urge locals to stay away from poachers,” said U Kyaw Myint Tun.

U Kyaw Myint Tun is the administrator of the Tin Chaung village tract and has won an elephant conservation award presented by State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Elephant poaching has been rampant in parts of Irrawaddy Region’s Pathein, Ngapudaw and Thabaung townships adjacent to the Rakhine mountain range since 2011.

According to Irrawaddy police records, 59 wild elephants were poached in the region between January 2011 and May 2018.

The Forest Department says 115 wild elephants were killed in the last four years across the country.

In response to a rise in elephant poaching, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation said in August that it was planning to establish elephant conservation areas in Yangon, Bago and Irrawaddy regions.

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MoMo, the Hardest-Working Elephant in Show Biz, Turns 65



YANGON—Yangon Zoo threw a birthday party for its oldest elephant, MoMo, on Oct. 21. Thousands of her human admirers gathered at the Yangon Zoological Garden to wish the beloved pachyderm a happy 65th.

MoMo was dressed in a bright, sparkly red outfit for the occasion, which reached its climax as she blew out the candles on her jumbo-sized birthday cake. She and five of her junior elephants from the zoo were also treated to a fruit buffet, musical performances by local idols, animal dances, games and even a comedy show.

Yangon Zoo has celebrated MoMo’s birthday every year since 2010; the party has become something of an event and always draws a crowd.

MoMo has long been Yangon’s favorite elephant; for nearly 55 years she charmed the city’s residents with her special talents such as dancing with a football, playing the harmonica and shaking her hips to the beat. She finally retired as a performer at age 60, said Ko Aung Win Thaung, the elephant keeper at Yangon Zoo.

Every Sunday for decades, Yangon Zoo was packed with families flocking in to see MoMo’s show. She is now an institution among city-dwellers.

“I’ve been working with MoMo for nearly 10 years. She’s a clever one. Currently, she is the matriarch of a group of six elephants at Yangon Zoo,” Ko Aung Win Thaung said.

“She’s getting on a bit now and would like to enjoy a quiet life, but the younger elephants are playful and she gets cross with them. At the same time, she’s teaching them life lessons, and not to make trouble,” he said.

MoMo was born in 1953 in Loikaw, Kayah State. Her owner, U Khoon Sandah, donated her to the zoo in 1961.

“The average life span for an elephant [in captivity] is about 70 to 75. Mostly, elephants live to about 60 in the wild, though many die before that age. MoMo has had a long life because she’s been cared for by the Yangon Zoo,” Ko Aung Win Thaung said.

MoMo has occasional age-related health issues like dental problems and seasonal flu. Basically, though, she’s amazingly healthy for her age, he said, adding that the zoo monitors her health regularly.

According to Ko Aung Win Thaung, MoMo is quite fastidious about keeping clean. She won’t touch the water from the elephants’ pond, and only drinks from a water pipe.

Something else that sets MoMo apart is that she’s never been married, and will likely remain a spinster for the rest of her life. “She is very shy. Normally, Yangon Zoo has mainly female elephants and a few males. She doesn’t seem to like any of them, though, so she’ll probably stay single,” Ko Aung Win Thaung said.

MoMo has lived almost her entire life at the zoo and has seen many of her old friends pass away in recent years. Nowadays, MoMo is the zoo’s oldest elephant, serving as a mother figure to Myo Myo, Ma Chaw Lay, Ma Hla Chaw, May Thae Phyu and Mo Thaw Pyae.

“MoMo is known around the country, and to generations of Myanmar people. People will long remember her, even after she passes away. They may name other elephants after her, but we will always remember the original MoMo,” he said.

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Wild elephants breaking into paddy fields successfully driven into forest reserve in Myanmar


YANGON, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Three wild elephants breaking into paddy, corn and banana fields in Yekyi township, Myanmar's southwestern Ayeyawaddy region, has been successfully driven into forest reserve, the official Global New Light of Myanmar reported Monday.

A combined team of Myanmar Timber Enterprise's Emergency Response Units and local authorities managed to send the elephants into forest reserve after three hours' tracing on Saturday in the forest, north of Mayagon village, Laymyatnar township.

In order to find food, the three wild elephants broke into the fields on last Tuesday evening and spent for three days and four nights there, but resulted in no physical damage to human and houses, the report said.

Myanmar government has planned to conduct a 10-year action plan on elephant conservation (2018-2027), which is aimed at preventing a decrease in the number of wildlife elephants and a reduction of their pasture land.

The action plan covers protection of wild elephants and their pasture land, solving human-elephant conflict, prevention of and enforcing action against illegal trading of elephants and their body parts as well as managing tame elephants.

According to reports, the number of wild elephants in Myanmar has dropped due to fewer wild elephant corridors, a reduction of their pasture land and human-elephant conflict.

Besides, illegal hunting and wildlife trading are two of the reasons for the declination in the elephant number, the report added.

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Forest Department has an elephantine task on hand


The Forest Department is set to groom the next batch of frontline elephants for Dasara duties as the current line-up of “stars” are almost past their prime.

While the howdah elephant Arjuna is 58 years, Balarama, who carried the golden howdah 13 times, is 60 years. So is Prashantha who at 62 may be part of the procession for a few more years but will never get to carry the 750 kg golden howdah with the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari. The other regulars include Vijaya, 61, and Varalakshmi who is 62 years and may soon be retired from Dasara duties.

That leaves the Forest Department with Abhimanyu who at 52 has enough stamina to carry the golden howdah in the future. “Abhimanyu is ever ready and a standby in case of an emergency as he has participated in Mysuru Dasara 20 times so far,” said veterinarian D.N. Nagaraj, responsible for the well-being of elephants when camping in the city.

Over 2.68 metres in height and 3.51 metres in length, Abhimanyu – who weighs over five tonnes – is temperamentally stoical but courageous and leads the charge to subdue and help capture “rogue” elephants that come into conflict in human habitation surrounding forests.

But his back is not flat enough to easily balance the howdah and hence is entrusted with other tasks such as drawing the music cart or to lead the procession by carrying the royal insignia along with Balarama.

Meanwhile, the authorities have zeroed in on young Drona who is all but 37.

“Temperamentally he is akin to Balarama – calm and composed under all circumstances, displaying enough maturity to handle stress and his near-flat back makes it possible to balance the howdah easily,” according to Dr. Nagaraj.

Drona was captured a few years ago in Hassan division and is attached to Mathigodu elephant camp in Nagarahole. He made his Dasara debut last year. Officials have already identified a few elephants in their mid-30s and these include Dhananjaya, Gopi, Gopalswamy, and even Vikrama who is 45 years old and has taken part in the Dasara 15 times so far.

It takes about six to seven years of regular Dasara participation for an elephant to get acclimatised and to be considered fit for carrying the howdah. Ranga, captured in Bengaluru Rural, was another possible contender. But his death in an accident this month put paid to those hopes.

There are nearly 100 elephants in the jungle camps of Mathigodu, Dubare, Balle, and Sakrebail and the authorities have the task cut out to identify the new generation of pachyderms for Dasara duties.

Big task

For the officials, identifying an elephant for the mammoth task of carrying the howdah is a difficult task.

For, it has to meet many criteria that are not formalised but are traditional. The elephant has to be calm under duress and not easily excitable. This entails the forest officials to observe the various elephants in their camps closely over an extended period of time.

Again, the elephant’s back should be flat so as to balance the howdah. Its overall personality, including physique and gait, too matters. And there should be a standby in case of any emergency. There are records of officials traversing as far as Assam and Burma (Myanmar) in quest of the “right elephant” during the days of the maharajas.

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Wild elephants breaking into paddy fields successfully driven into forest reserve in Myanmar


YANGON, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Three wild elephants breaking into paddy, corn and banana fields in Yekyi township, Myanmar's southwestern Ayeyawaddy region, has been successfully driven into forest reserve, the official Global New Light of Myanmar reported Monday.

A combined team of Myanmar Timber Enterprise's Emergency Response Units and local authorities managed to send the elephants into forest reserve after three hours' tracing on Saturday in the forest, north of Mayagon village, Laymyatnar township.

In order to find food, the three wild elephants broke into the fields on last Tuesday evening and spent for three days and four nights there, but resulted in no physical damage to human and houses, the report said.

Myanmar government has planned to conduct a 10-year action plan on elephant conservation (2018-2027), which is aimed at preventing a decrease in the number of wildlife elephants and a reduction of their pasture land.

The action plan covers protection of wild elephants and their pasture land, solving human-elephant conflict, prevention of and enforcing action against illegal trading of elephants and their body parts as well as managing tame elephants.

According to reports, the number of wild elephants in Myanmar has dropped due to fewer wild elephant corridors, a reduction of their pasture land and human-elephant conflict.

Besides, illegal hunting and wildlife trading are two of the reasons for the declination in the elephant number, the report added. Enditem

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

People celebrate 65th birthday of elephant MoMo in Myanmar


Thousands of people celebrate the 65th birthday of MoMo, an elephant at Yangon Zoological Gardens in Myanmar, on October 21. MoMo, a female Asian elephant, has performed dance and football skills for visitors for nearly 55 years after she was donated to the zoo. People have been celebrating her birthday since 2010.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Saving Myanmar's elephants from skin poaching


The poaching of African elephants, where they are killed for their ivory tusks, is well-documented.

But halfway around the world in Myanmar, elephants are ten times more endangered and are now facing a new serious threat.

Driven by a huge demand in China, poachers are skinning Asian elephants to make ruby red jewellery.

Now an NGO called 'The Elephant Project' is working to save Myanmar's elephants.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Villagers in sanctuary learn to live with, protect wild elephants


On his way to the field, U Pyone Cho unexpectedly met a wild elephant but was too surprised to do anything.

Before he knew it, the beast had picked him up with its trunk, and he thought it was the end for him. But he held on to the trunk with all the strength he could muster and the wild elephant threw him into a bush quite far away. Desperate to ward off the elephant, he took out some firecrackers he had with him and lit them.

“Both of us ran away from each other,” U Pyone Cho recalled, laughing, and he only suffered a sprained back from the encounter.

U Pyone Cho lives in Kun Thi Myaung village in Taikkyi township, Yangon Region. The village – a drive of over three hours from Yangon city – is near Bago Yoma Sanctuary, which is home to wild elephants.

With about 100 houses, the peaceful and quiet village on the way to Myaing Hay Wun Elephant Camp is surrounded by dragon fruit, sugar cane and mango orchards.

The village is a hotspot of human-elephant conflict, and villagers admit they are always worried about the possibility of encountering the jungle giants while working in their fields or heading home.

Residents said wild elephants usually enter the village at night to eat in the paddy fields. Sometimes, they forage for food at villagers houses.

“We just watch them when they get into the sugar-cane because we dare not drive them out. Our farm hut has a watchtower on top of a tree where we have to sleep all night,” said farmer U Thein Aung.

Five years ago, a villager was killed by a wild elephant when he tried to confront it and drive it away, according to U Thein Zaw, another villager.

Years of elephant incursions have made the villagers careful. Usually when elephants enter their fields, they do not confront them but frighten them by setting off firecrackers, which send the beasts scampering back into the jungle.

Villagers usually carry firecrackers when they venture into the forest in case they encounter wild elephants.

The Emergency Elephant Response Unit (EERU) at the elephant camp also helps in preventing human-elephant conflict as well as poaching by installing radio collars around the elephants’ necks to track them.

The World Wildlife Fund-Myanmar helps the unit with patrols and conservation work. Once an elephant is monitored venturing outside the sanctuary, a team from the unit is dispatched to drive the elephants back to the protected area.

Near Bago Yoma, there are about 10 villages, including Kun Thi Myaung, where human-elephant conflicts occur, said U Maung Maung Chay, leader of the unit.

The unit protects the villagers and keeps a close watch on the movement of the elephants. They also protect the beasts from poachers.

“We follow the elephants and take care of them as if the elephants belonged to us. When we find suspected poachers, we contact the authorities and we keep monitoring. The hunters do not dare to come near the elephants. The village administrators phone us if the wild elephants enter a village. If they are in a normal mood, we go there and turn them away by setting off firecrackers or shouting. If the elephants do not run away, we call in the kumkis (decoy elephants) of the EERU,” he said.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Win Tun of the forest security force said they conduct daily patrols to prevent human-elephant conflicts and to stop poachers.

“In the sanctuary, humans are invading the habitat of the elephants, chopping down trees and planting crops. This leads to less grazing area for the elephants, so they go into the fields of the villagers,” said U Win Tun.

The officer added that elephants also enter villages to escape poachers who hunt them in the forest.

Cooperation between the villagers near Bago Yoma, law enforcement and conservationists has increased recently, resulting in fewer elephant killings.

EERU patrols have started in the regions and states of Ayeyarwady, Bago, Sagaing, Magwe, Mandalay, Rakhine, and Nay Pyi Taw.

“The police, Forestry [Department], timber businesses, local government officials and village groups have joined hands to stop the poaching of elephants,” said U Zaw Min Oo, manager of the Myanma Timber Enterprise.

While locals are afraid of the elephants, they don’t want the beasts to go extinct, villager U Maung Maung Chay said, adding that villagers have learned to avoid elephants.

He cited the example of one stubborn wild elephant that always intrudes into villages. The villagers fondly call it “Jeep Car” because it moves very fast.

“He doesn’t stay in the forest much. He lives near the village. He has been tranquilised and released in Myauksamari Sanctuary twice, but he always returns here,” said U Maung Maung Chay.

Villagers urged the government and conservationists to help them set up electric fences around their fields so elephants do not destroy their crops.

“If we can grow crops in protected fields,” U Thein Aung said, “people will have food and will help protect the elephants from poachers.”

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Yangon ups ante in fight against illegal wildlife trade


Yangon is set to become the first major city in Southeast Asia to become free of trade in illegal wildlife parts after it ordered an immediate ban on the illicit market last week.

If the trade in such items is not immediately halted, the buyers and sellers will be charged under The Protection of Biodiversity and Conservation Areas Law, under which they face punishments including up to 10 years of imprisonment.

“The education period is now over. The new law has also been made widely known. Under this law, imprisonment is included so the punishment will be severe,” U Thein Toe, director of the Forestry Department of Yangon Region told The Myanmar Times.

The regional Forestry Department is cooperating closely with the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) to enforce the ban after it carried out education campaign in all the major markets and shops around the region about the need to stop the illegal wildlife and wildlife parts trade.

As the education period has been completed successfully, U Thein Toe hopes that businesses completely end the illegal trade.

“The law has come into effect so it doesn’t matter whether the sellers agree or disagree. Education activities were already organised to address the issues,” he added.

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

The Ministry of Resources and Environmental Conservation made amendments to The Protection of Wildlife and Conservation of Natural Areas Law 1994 in order to keep it up to date and increase punishment for violators.

Parliament approved the amendments to the Protection of Biodiversity and Conservation Areas Law on May 21, 2018.

In order to properly implement the law, rules and regulations were drawn up and consultations were conducted among stakeholders, including shops selling illegal wildlife parts.

Under the amended law, those who are caught commercially breeding protected wildlife could be punished by up to three years imprisonment and or a fine up K500,000 (US$320), while those caught for hunting, selling, having in possession, carrying or transferring protected endangered wildlife or their parts face up to 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 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.

Christy Williams, country director of the WWF-Myanmar, said his organisation will participate in the enforcement of the ban.

“I’m happy to know such an initiative has been announced in Yangon. I’m ready to support in the government’s law enforcement in the region,” Williams said.

A research conducted by the WWF-Myanmar in September last year showed that about 67 percent of the shops at Bogyoke Aung San Market and about 30pc of the shops in the vicinity of Shwedagon Pagoda are selling elephant and other wildlife parts.

The Bogyoke Aung San Market and the Shwedagon Pagoda are the two most visited places in Yangon.

The WWF-Myanmar research found that most of the buyers of the wildlife parts are Chinese nationals.

The products made of wild animal parts found at Bogyoke Aung San Market are mostly jewellery made from elephant bones and ivory. These are sold along with jade in the market. Statues made of ivory and other accessories made with wildlife parts such as tortoise shell combs are found in the shops in the vicinity of Shwedagon Pagoda.

An official from the Yangon region Forest Department said his office will work closely with local and international wildlife conservation groups, to ensure the success of the ban.

Over the past eight years, elephant poaching has intensified in Myanmar due to increased demand for their skin, meat and tusks.

The Union Forest Department said that from 2010 to 2017, a total of 165 wild elephants were lost poached; 81 of them died naturally and 84 were killed by the poachers.

The Ayeyarwady, Bago, Yangon Regions and Rakhine State are among the hotspots for elephant poaching. Data from the Forest Department showed that most of the wildlife parts it seized are from elephants, followed by Pangolins and snakes.

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Thursday, October 04, 2018

Myanmar's ivory trade challenges China's efforts to save African elephants

Myanmar's flourishing African ivory smuggling is putting immense pressure on China's effort to enforce a domestic ban on ivory trade, a report released by Save the Elephants revealed.

Researchers found around 51 shops openly displaying 14,846 ivory items for sale in Myanmar's Mong La, Mandalay, Yangon, Tachileik and Bagan cities.

 At Mong La, a town located on the notorious Golden Triangle, “the illegal ivory trade soared by a 63 percent increase in last three years,” the report said.

The Golden Triangle bisects the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers, bordering Myanmar, Laos and southern China, and is the second largest hub for cross-border smuggling of drugs in the world, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The report titled “Myanmar's Growing Illegal Ivory Trade with China” reveals the booming ivory product sales at Mong La in the last few years, which has replaced Tachileik on the Thailand border as the place with the largest number of illegal worked ivory items.

Vendors selling carved ivory items, according to the report, stated that Chinese customers buy about 90 percent of what they sell.

Myanmar has more than 5,000 captive elephants, the largest captive elephant population in the world. The existing laws in the country allow trade of ivory procured from licensed elephants that have naturally died.

However, researchers found over a third of the ivory items available in Mong La shops were of African elephants.

“Rampant African ivory smuggling in Myanmar has put a lot of pressure on Chinese law enforcement agencies to ensure effective domestic ban on ivory. Awareness about the ivory ban along Golden Triangle region and a strict law enforcement are required to stop this brutal trade,” Lucy Vigne, a lead author of the report told CGTN.

“The authorities in Myanmar are not deterring ivory smugglers and trade in ivory and other endangered wildlife products that are running riot to meet the continued Chinese demand. This is against the international norms,” she added.

In a bid to control illegal cross-border activities, the Chinese government closed the official border crossing from China into Mong La in 2010.

The Chinese mainland banned the domestic trade of ivory, early this year, in an effort to control poaching in African countries. Its regions including Hong Kong and Taiwan enacted similar laws to combat the illegal ivory trade.

In Myanmar's illegal ivory market, researchers also saw intricate carvings and figurines that appeared to have been smuggled in from China where sales are now banned.

More than 20,000 African elephants are killed every year to satiate global demand for ivory. “Despite a great political commitment from the Chinese government and the moral leadership of influential citizens it will take continued united action to end the issue,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.

“China's new laws have to be rigorously enforced, borders must be controlled, and everyone must be made aware of the terrible consequences of buying ivory,” he suggested.
Myanmar government, alarmed with the unprecedented increase in wildlife trade, burned seized ivory tusk and other wildlife products on Thursday in a bid to deter the smugglers.

“We know that over 20 countries around the world destroy illegal wildlife parts in this way. We want to wipe out the illegal market and let people know that if they trade unlawful items, they will be seized and destroyed," U Win Naing Thaw, director of Myanmar's Nature and Wildlife Conservation Department told Cambodia Times.

Esmond Martin, co-author of the report, and a conservationist known for his investigative work on ivory and rhino horn trade was murdered in Kenya in February this year.

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Burmese government burns illegal wildlife products worth $1.3 million in bid to deter traffickers

Law enforcement authorities in Burma have incinerated seized wildlife crime products with an estimated value of $1.3 million as part of wider crackdown on animal part trafficking.

Officials from the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation ceremonially set fire to a huge pyre of confiscated trafficked products made from animal parts, including elephant tusks, antelope horn and pangolin scales.

The items included 277 products made from ivory, 227 elephant and other wildlife’s bones, 45 pieces of different wildlife skins, 1,544 animal horns, 45.5kgs of pangolin scales, and 128 varieties of other animal parts.

Speaking during the ceremony, Burma’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation U Ohn Win said: “”It is crucial to sustainably conserve our country’s natural resources, including land, water, forest, mountains and wildlife, for the sake of our future generations. We designate and establish protected areas for biodiversity conservation.”

The ministry said the ceremony was organised to help raise awareness of the threat posed by wildlife smuggling in Burma, and to dissuade people who might be tempted to become involved in the trafficking trade.

Burma is a major hub for wildlife smugglers, who use the country as a base from which to traffic illegal items made from animal parts to China and other Asian nations.

In a report published earlier this week, conservation charity Save the Elephants revealed that China’s recent crackdown on the ivory trade had fuelled a “prolific growth” in the illicit animal parts trade in the Burma-China border town of Mong La.

The study found that the number of new ivory items found for sale in the town had grown by 63% over the course of the past three years, and now accounts for over a third of the ivory seen in the country.

According to the report, Chinese visitors are able to smuggle ivory purchased in Mong La back to their home country with little fear of being caught.

It also noted that a computer-driven machine in one shop in the town enables Chinese customers to mass produce decorative products made out of ivory.

Lucy Vigne, lead author of the report, commented: “Poaching is a problem for elephants in Myanmar but the country also provides a largely unchecked conduit for illegal African ivory carved in the region to be smuggled into China, in violation of International Law.

“The authorities are not deterring ivory smugglers and trade in ivory and other endangered wildlife products that is running riot to meet the continued Chinese demand.”

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Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Ministry to burn seized ivory, illegal wildlife parts


A plan by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation to burn elephant tusks and other seized wildlife parts sparked criticism on Thursday.

The ministry said the parts that will be burned include ivory, antelope antlers, python skins, pangolin scales, as well as leopard, bear and tortoise parts.

This will be the first time the ministry will destroy such items, it added.

U Win Naing Thaw, director of the Nature and Wildlife Conservation Department, said, “We won’t burn all of them, as some will be kept in a museum.”

“We know that over 20 countries around the world destroy illegal wildlife parts in this way. We want to wipe out the illegal market and let people know that if they trade illegal items, they will be seized and destroyed,” he added.

Being part of the notorious Golden Triangle, Myanmar is facing an unprecedented poaching crisis because it is at the heart of an illicit global wildlife trade, according to the ministry.

But one critic said burning wildlife parts will not end the illicit trade.

“It is not the way to solve this problem. People who trade and hunt illegally should be imprisoned,” he said. “I think the parts should be shown in a museum.”

The ministry effort is supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wide Fund for Nature and comes ahead of a London conference on illegal wildlife trade on October 10 and 11 that will be attended by a Myanmar delegation headed by Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Minister U Ohn Win.

A conservationist said the parts would be more useful in a public education campaign.

“I do not support the burning of illegal wildlife parts. They should be used to try to raise public awareness.

“Not only gold and jewels are precious for our country; wildlife parts should also be considered a national treasure.”

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Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Myanmar is the new illegal ivory market for African elephants, says report


Myanmar, a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups, bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand is now the new growing market for ivory trade. This is according to a new report by ivory trade specialists Lucy Vigne and the late Esmond Martin, which shows that one town in particular in Myanmar, Mong La - a frontier town in the notorious Golden Triangle on the border of China - has experienced a ‘prolific growth’ in ivory trading. Myanmar is facing an unprecedented elephant-skinning epidemic that threatens to wipe out its wild elephant population in a matter of years. The number of new ivory items seen for sale in the town grew by 63 per cent in three years, and now accounts for over a third of the ivory seen in the country. This new study shows the scale of the challenge that remains for elephants in the face of the ivory trade. The report ‘Myanmar’s Growing Illegal Ivory Trade with China’, a publication by Save the Elephants(STE) released on Tuesday 2, 2018 in Nairobi recounts how Chinese visitors smuggle worked ivory from Mong La back home with little concern about getting caught. “This ivory has often come up the Mekong River into the lawless eastern periphery of Myanmar where it is for sale in both retail and bulk. The wholesale price for African raw ivory in late 2017 in the Golden Triangle region has remained stable at about USD 770(Sh77,000) to USD 800(Sh80,000) per kg since late 2015,”said Ms Vigne, the lead author of the report. Know if news is factual and true. Text 'NEWS' to 22840 and always receive verified news updates. Myanmar is said to have the largest captive, or ‘domestic’, elephant population in the world with over 5,000 individuals. However, the “Traders there say that the internal ivory trade is legal for trimmed domestic elephant tusk tips and from licensed animals that have died, and operate accordingly,” added Vigne. This is going on despite trading in the tusks of the remaining wild elephants in Myanmar – numbering perhaps 2,000 – is acknowledged to be illegal. The ivory from captive elephants is used for local carving and retail sale especially in Mandalay and Yangon. Their tusks are also sold wholesale in Mandalay to Chinese traders, who smuggle them across the China border in contravention of the existing international ivory trade ban. Traders reported that 90 per cent of buyers were Chinese wishing to smuggle the ivory home, as also found by the same authors in market surveys in Hong Kong (2015) and Laos (2017).In Vietnam (2016) this was estimated to be 75 per cent. “Poaching is a problem for elephants in Myanmar but the country also provides a largely unchecked conduit for illegal African ivory carved in the region to be smuggled into China, in violation of International Law. The authorities are not deterring ivory smugglers and trade in ivory and other endangered wildlife products that is running riot to meet the continued Chinese demand,” said Vigne. The researchers cited five towns and cities (of eight visited) with 51 shops openly displaying 14,846 ivory items for sale. These were Mong La, Mandalay, Yangon, Tachileik and Bagan. In Mong La, ten open Chinese shops were counted, nearly all specialising in selling ivory, displaying 5,279 recently-made ivory items. According to Ian Douglas-Hamilton, founder STE, many of the DNA tests done on the ivories that have been arrested prove that most of them come from Africa. “Most of the DNA results of the ivories seized and tested at since 2006 from University of Washington Centre for Conservation Biology shows that they now come from Africa especially from DRC Congo, Tanzania with Mombasa port being the exit point. Kenya currently is doing well since the ban of ivory trading and thanked community conservancies for improving the conservation of elephants and other wildlife,” said Hamilton. Hamilton is calling upon China to close its market to stop fueling demand from Myanmar and asked for more collaboration between countries and agencies involved in stopping illegal wildlife trade. The international trade in elephant ivory has been illegal since 1989 yet African elephant numbers continue to decline. In 2016 the International Union for Conservation of Nature cited ivory poaching as a primary reason for the staggering loss of around 111,000 elephants between 2005 and 2015 – leaving their dwindling total numbers at an estimated 415,000.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Wild elephant killed by poisoned arrow


Police have launched manhunt operations against poachers who killed one wild elephant in Par Paw village in Singu township in Mandalay Region.

The elephant, estimated to be 40years old, was killed on Saturday according to villagers, U Tint Swe, director of the Mandalay Region Department of Forestry told The Myanmar Times on Monday.

“The elephant was killed by a poisoned arrow fired from a percussion rifle. As the site is near a residential area, tusk and skin were not removed and taken from the dead elephant. We are investigating the incident in cooperation with the police,” U Tint Swe said.

‘The elephant was killed by a poisoned arrow fired from a percussion rifle.’ - U Tint Swe, director, Mandalay Forestry Department

“In March, one wild elephant was also killed in nearby Thabeikkyin township. Elephant killings are quite frequent in our areas. There are some preventive measures that have been initiated but killings,” an official of Singu township Department of Forestry, who requested anonymity, said.

Combined teams of police and Department of Forestry officials have been dispatched to hunt down the suspects and a case was opened under section 41 (a) of the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Law at Letpanhla police station by the forest department.

“As the areas in Thabeikkyin and Singu are surrounded by forests, many wild elephants dwell there. So there are also many poachers. With the help of the police, these poachers could be arrested if they can be pursued deep into the jungle,” a resident from Letpanhla village U Thaung Tun said.

The Department of Forestry said seven wild elephants have been killed in Mandalay Region over the last two years.

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‘Two key factors to end jumbo deaths’


KOTA KINABALU: Identifying the source of poisoning and improving the layout of the electric fencing are among key tasks that need to be tackled quickly in overcoming the deaths of Borneo pygmy elephants.

A Sabah-based conservationist Dr Marc Ancrenaz said the post-­mortems had yet to give a conclusive cause over the jumbo’s recent deaths, though suspicion was that it might be poisoning of their food and water sources.

“What is happening now is that most of these elephants are coming out of the forests to forage and may be consuming water and food sources that might be contaminated by fertilisers or chemicals,” he said.

“We need to find the source of the poisoning. So far, investigators cannot pinpoint any poison in the dead elephants’ blood stream.”

A total of 18 pygmy elephants have died since April. The motive behind more than half of the deaths could not be ascertained.

The others were killed by hunters’ traps or died due to natural causes.

Dr Ancrenaz said another concern was the setting up of electric fences haphazardly by plantation and farm owners.

“These elephants sometimes manage to slip through the gaps between the electric fences, but could not get out of the fenced area, causing further human-elephant conflict,” he said.

Dr Ancrenaz said such electric fencing should be placed with an overview of the landscape to minimise conflicts triggered by fragmented forests in the elephants’ natural roaming area.

Noting that the state government was setting up a task force to look into the deaths, Dr Ancrenaz said it was important to get advice from experts handling the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India.

Though Sabah’s wild elephant population is only about 1,500 to 2,000, he said they were breeding well.

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Wild-Caught Elephants Die Years Early In Captivity

New research into captive elephant lifespans reveals that wild-caught animals live shorter lives.
Elephants are critical to the logging industry across Southeast Asia, even though the animals are endangered. And in Myanmar, a country long largely cutoff from the world, the animals are an especially integral part of the workforce. For centuries, Myanmar kings employed the beasts in their armies. And since the early 1700s, the country’s government has used the giants as draft animals to harvest timber, like teak, a popular hardwood that grows in mountainous regions where vehicle access is difficult.

But to tame and train the animals, people first had to capture them.

Capturing elephants typically happens in one of three ways: lassoing individuals around the neck; immobilizing them with an opiate-derived narcotic before administering a reversal agent and tethering them to another elephant that leads them to camp; and herding whole groups, usually families, into stockades. Previous research showed capture is traumatic for the animals and can significantly affect their health and behavior. The breaking and taming process likely enhances these negative effects.

Mirkka Lahdenperä, a biologist at the University of Turku in Finland who led the new research, wanted to compare different capture methods. Since elephants are highly intelligent and social animals that live in strong family groups, she thought the herding method might mean less social isolation for the creatures.

Elephant Life Story
To find out how being captured affects elephants, Lahdenperä tapped a unique dataset: full life histories of thousands of Asian elephants stretching back more than a century. Khyne Mar, Lahdenperä’s colleague at the University of Turku and co-author of the new paper, collected the data from the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, which archives the life details of each work animal with the aid of local vets and regional timber managers. The records track the elephants from birth to death and include not just whether an elephant was born in the wild or in captivity but how they were captured, how old they were when tamed, and who their parents and offspring are.

Although earlier studies assessed how captivity affected elephants shortly after capture, the long-term effects on elephants’ lives were unknown. So, Lahdenperä and her team analyzed nearly 50 years of the timber company’s records that chronicled more than 5,000 elephants’ lives.

The team’s analysis revealed that capturing elephants from the wild reduces their lifespan by around 5 years, regardless of how they were captured or their gender. “This means all these [capture] methods had an equally negative effect on the elephant’s subsequent life [in the long-term],” Lahdenperä said in a statement. Death during capture and taming killed 5 to 30 percent of the animals, but since the researchers did not have access to this data, Lahdenperä says they can’t determine which capture method might be best (or worst) for elephants.

Animals Captured For Zoos
Wild elephant populations are declining, thanks in part to conflict with humans, but also to sustain captive populations like those in zoos. One-third of Asian elephants now live in captivity. And even in elephant research and conservation programs, the effects of capture on the subsequent health of the animals are not taken into consideration, says Lahdenperä.

She hopes this unique dataset can help provide new solutions to elephant management and healthcare, adding that “capturing elephants isn’t only detrimental because it reduces wild populations of this endangered species, it also fails to provide a viable solution for sustaining captive populations.”

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A new lust for elephant skin jewelry could decimate Myanmar’s giants

The poaching of African elephants, where they are murdered for their ivory tusks, is well-documented. But halfway around world in Myanmar, their cousins are 10 times more endangered and facing a new serious threat. Poachers are taking the skin of Asian elephants and turning it into ruby red jewelry. The NewsHour’s Nsikan Akpan reports.

To read the full article, click on the story title.

Born free, but in chains later...

Asia’s wild-captured worker elephants die young, says a study spanning nearly five decades
Asian elephants snatched from the wild and conscripted to haul logs in Myanmar’s timber industry live on average five years less than working elephants born in captivity, researchers have said.

The older an elephant is at the time of capture, the more likely it is to die young, according to an analysis of government logs for 5,150 of the giant mammals - two-fifths of them wild-born - covering the period from 1951 to 2000.

The median lifespan for working captive-born males and females was 30 and 45 years, respectively. Among wild-caught animals, it was half-a-decade less for both sexes.

The trauma of being drugged or lassoed into submission during capture; the brutal process of “breaking” an animal so it will obey orders; separation from family... all of these factors likely contribute to this foreshortened lifespan, the researchers speculated.

“Elephants are affected by long-term stress stemming from their earlier experiences and new life in captivity,” Mirkka Lahdenpera, a professor at the University of Turku in Finland and lead author of a study detailing the findings, told AFP.

Earlier research has shown that both African and Asian elephants are highly social. Calves separated from mothers, for example, can suffer long-lasting trauma.

Indeed, for this reason, traffickers selling the animals into Thailand’s tourist trade or Myanmar’s logging industry generally avoid taking calves under five years old that still suckle their mothers.

Currently, there are some 5,000 adult elephants toiling in Myanmar, the vast majority dragging freshly cut tree trunks through the dense jungle to transport hubs and mills.

Because they breed poorly in captivity, there is constant demand for wild specimens.

In Myanmar, the highly valuable animals are protected by government regulations that mandate maximum work loads and rest periods.

Timber industry elephants have holidays, maternity leave and a mandatory retirement age.

Most work during the day and are released to forests during the night to forage and socialise, with both captive and wild peers.

“Captive-born working timber elephants in Myanmar live as long as wild ones,” Lahdenpera noted.

But the study, published in Nature Communications , highlighted the cost to these majestic creatures of the violent transition from jungle to a life of servitude.

“Wild-caught elephants carry the scars from their capture for a long, long time,” said Lahdenpera. “We should find an alternative and better methods to boost the captive populations.”

The worst environments for elephants are zoos, which shorten lifespans most of all.AFP

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Captivity shortens the lifespan of wild elephants

A new study published on July 7 in Nature Communications, a scientific journal, examined the effects of long-term captivity on wild timber elephants in Myanmar (1). The study, performed by researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany, compiled data from the detailed records held by the Myanmar government on the life-history of over 5 000 captive timber elephants between 1951–2000. Based on this data, predictive modelling was used to demonstrate age-specific, adverse effects of capture on the mortality of wild Asian elephants.

Timber elephants work during the day and are released into the forest at night, where they can interact with other captive timber elephants as well as wild elephants. Captive-born and wild-caught elephants are tamed and trained in the same way and fall under the same governmental regulations ― including holidays, maternity leave, and a retirement age ― however, wild-captured elephants are often treated more harshly.

The analysis shows that captured elephants have an increased mortality rate compared to captive-born elephants regardless of how they were captured. Moreover, their average life expectancy is several years shorter than captive-born elephants. No differences between male and female elephants were observed but age was shown to be an important factor. Elephants captured at an older age are at a higher risk of mortality compared to those tamed from a young age.

Elephants are most at risk of dying during the first year immediately following capture. This risk declines in subsequent years, but the negative effects can last an entire decade. What makes this study even more alarming is that according to Dr Mirkka Lahdenperä, lead author of the study, “60 percent of elephants in zoos are captured from the wild and about a third of all remaining Asian elephants now live in captivity.”

Wild animals are placed in captivity for a variety of sanctioned purposes including conservation, veterinary, and research, as well as population management. However, the stress of capture is known to result in changes in behaviour, physiology, and immunity. Furthermore, interactions with humans, taming, interspecies competition, and social isolation can lead to reductions in survival rates and other adverse effects, and disrupting early development by altering the environment is also known to cause health, reproductive, and survival issues later in life.

Elephants are frequently captured despite being known to perform badly in captivity. Wild or semi-captive elephants, of both African (Loxodonta africana) and Asian (Elephas maximus) origin, kept in zoos are at a much higher risk of dying (2). However, the reasons are poorly understood. The 3000-year long history of capturing Asian elephants continues today despite declining elephant populations. These striking long-term differences between captive-born and wild-captured elephants should be considered in future research and conservation programs, to prevent further decline of wild elephant populations.

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Ai Weiwei calls attention to plight of Myanmar’s ‘jobless’ timber elephants

Artist Ai Weiwei has visited elephant camps in Myanmar, where efforts to reduce logging have created new dangers for more than 1,000 “jobless” timber elephants.

Key points:

Ban on logging exports has left many elephants locked up in camps

Timber industry has used elephants to transport wood for decades

Ai Weiwei critical of conditions elephants being kept in

Elephants have been used in Myanmar’s timber industry for decades, work that has seen the creatures drag heavy logs through forests.

However, animal-protection organisation Four Paws said a ban on timber exports meant many working elephants were now “jobless” and viewed as a financial burden.

Many have been chained up in camps, while others are being smuggled out of the country for use in the tourism industry. Some are also being abandoned or killed.

External Link:

Ai Weiwei Instagram video elephant chains

Ai Weiwei visited several camps with Four Paws workers, and posted videos on Instagram of what he saw.

In a video posted by Four Paws, the artist said the elephants’ living conditions were far from what he expected.

“I feel it’s a creature, it’s a human being itself, and we know very little about it,” he said.

“I can feel its full emotion and intelligence. Unfortunately it has been put in this kind of position by humans, which is not right but also not fair.

“They deserve to live in freedom, but have always been mistreated. Let them be free … We have to understand we are human by doing something nice for other species, otherwise we fail as a human being.”

External Link:

Ai Weiwei visits working elephants in Myanmar

In one video posted on Instagram, Ai Weiwei captured a young elephant in one of the camps being poked and struck in the head with a stick.

Sanctuary under construction

External Link:

Ai Weiwei instagram video

Myanmar’s nationwide, one-year ban on timber exports was lifted in April 2016.

However logging resumed at a reduced level, and a decade-long ban in the Bago Yoma Hills in central Myanmar also remained in effect, leaving elephants in that area out of work.

In response to this, Four Paws is constructing one of South-East Asia’s largest elephant sanctuaries in the Bago region.

Known as Elephants Lake, it will cover an area of 17,000 hectares and have veterinarians and other experts on staff to care for former working elephants, as well as injured or orphaned wild elephants.

The animals will later be released into the nearby North Zar Ma Yi Forest Reserve.

Topics:

animals,

endangered-and-protected-species,

timber,

visual-art,

burma

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Elephant Poaching Dips in 2018 After Years on Rise

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Region — More than 100 wild elephants were poached in forest reserves across the country over the past four years, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation’s Forest Department.

U Pyae Phyo Aung, head of the Forest Department in Irrawaddy Region’s Ngapudaw Township, said poachers killed a total 115 of the pachyderms over the period: seven in 2014, 20 in 2015, 18 in 2016, 59 in 2017, and 11 from January through May.

“Elephant poaching was highest last year, but it has declined this year,” he told The Irrawaddy.

He added that 53 elephant died of natural causes from 2014 to May.

Combined, Myanmar lost 168 wild elephants over the period, an average of about 40 per year.

In the past, elephants were mainly poached for their tusks. But over the past few years, they are also increasingly targeted for their hide, which, like the tusks, is mostly smuggled to China.

Most of the poaching takes place in Irrawaddy Region. Local police said 59 elephants were poached in the region between 2011 and May 2018.

But elephant poaching in Irrawaddy Region has significantly declined this year thanks to cooperation from locals, said Ko Sai Zaw Oo of Friends of Wildlife (FOW), which is partnering with the World Wildlife Fund on elephant conservation efforts.

In January, the Forest Department launched an initiative offering rewards of 3 million kyats ($2,046) to anyone who provides authorities with information leading to the arrest of elephant poachers.

“Last year we were able to arrest a poaching ring due to a tip from a local resident in Ngapudaw. We awarded him 3 million kyats. And we conduct regular patrols with forestry police and departmental officials, and elephant poaching has declined in the region,” Ko Sai Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy.

Combined teams comprising local police, forestry police, forest department staff, village administrators, elephant veterinarians and non-governmental organization officials conduct regular patrols across forest reserves in Irrawaddy and also educate locals about the dangers and damage of poaching.

In February, the government launched the Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan, a strategy for the next 10 years (2018–2027) aimed at securing viable and ecologically functional elephant populations in Myanmar for the next century and beyond with support from international and local organizations.

Myanmar’s elephant population is now estimated at between 1,400 and 2,000, a drastic decline from about 10,000 in the 1940s, according to the Forest Department.

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Friday, July 20, 2018

Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei visits elephant camps in Myanmar to raise awareness of jobless logging elephants in crisis





There are almost 5,000 working elephants in Myanmar, more than half employed by state-run Myanmar Timber Enterprise to haul hardwood trees. However, an export ban put 1,000 elephants out of work. Some were killed, others were abandoned or sent to neighbouring countries

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has carved a career out of controversy and activism, the dissident artist’s works that touch on subjects from human rights to corruption often raising the ire of the Chinese government.

Now the Berlin-based artist is getting his hands dirty for another cause. His latest passion project is all about the pachyderm, more specifically Myanmar’s “jobless” working elephants.

Last week Ai Weiwei visited several elephant camps in the country as part of a mission with animal welfare group, Four Paws. According to the Vienna-based organisation, about 2,900 of the almost 5,000 working elephants in Myanmar belong to state-owned enterprises, mostly the Myanmar Timber Enterprise. The rest are in private hands.


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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Myanmar’s Illegal Wildlife trade to go on screen



Myanmar is most affected by wildlife poaching and trafficking. From last December to May alone, five elephants have been reported killed in the outskirt of Yangon, according to the forest department.

The problem is not new but still prevalent. To fight the plight, WWF had launched the Mo Mo campaign last year to raise awareness and protect the elephants.

However, although the campaign resonated in the heart of Yangonites, illegal trafficking still plagues Myanmar. This month, three cases of illegal wildlife trade were reported in Mandalay and Magway regions. Over there and on the Chinese border, illegal market boast skulls, tusks and skin of the rarest and most endangered species in the country – such as elephants, tigers and pangolins.

Doubling down on the effort to fight illegal wildlife trade, the union parliament passed the Protection of Biodiversity and Protected Areas Law last May which establishes mandatory prison sentences for poaching or trading of protected species.


Along with the new policy, the UK Government, and the Luang Prabang Film Festival in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) launched a short film competition to raise awareness about illegal wildlife trade in Myanmar.


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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Poachers feed China trade, threaten country’s elephants



Following a tip-off by villagers in early May, U Sai Nyi Nyi rushed to the forest in Kyauk Gyi village in Thabeikkyin township of Mandalay Region and found the remains of a dead female elephant. Her tusks and trunk had been cut off and her skin peeled off the right side of her body.

Elephant poachers hastily left when the villagers arrived. Such activity has become common in Thabeikkyin, where poachers in groups of five or more, impersonating wood cutters and armed with guns, enter the forest in search of prey.



“They usually stay in the jungle for many days,” U Sai Nyi Nyi, a member of the township wildlife conservation team, said. Her group has been raising awareness among villagers near the forest to help them protect wildlife from poachers.

He said the poachers first drive the elephants into a desired location and then shoot them with poisoned arrows or guns. Then they follow the wounded elephant till it falls dead, which may take two or more days.



The elephants, sensing danger, go near the villages, as poachers tend to avoid shooting them near populated areas. Wild elephants sometimes enter the fields near the villages apparently to seek refuge, U Sai Nyi Nyi said.

Demand for elephant skin has rapidly risen since last year, according to a study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Myanmar. Many Chinese still believe that elephant skin can cure skin diseases and gastritis. It is also used in making jewellery. The increasing demand from China for elephant parts has led to the killing of more elephants in Myanmar.

“Elephant trunk is also said to be medicinal and has become a target,” Daw Sapai Min, WWF Myanmar project manager, said.

The demand for skin has endangered not only male tusked elephants but also females and their young.

“There is no scientific proof that it cures these diseases,” WWF Myanmar Senior Conservation Biologist U Paing Soe said.

Wild elephants are common in Ayeyarwady, Mandalay, Yangon, Bago, Rakhine and Kayin regions and states, but most of the killings happen in Ayeyarwady.


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Raids reveal Myanmar poachers’ indiscriminate bloodthirst



A series of targeted raids by Forestry Department agents on Tuesday ended with the arrest of six poachers Mandalay, Ayeyawady, and Bago regions and the seizure of a vast array of wildlife products. The diversity of the haul offered a glimpse into the voracious bloodthirst of Myanmar poachers and their customers.

Among the seized items were elephant hides, antlers of numerous deer species, bison horns, turtle shells and flesh, porcupine quills, bear bones, claws, and paws, and skulls of a variety of wild animals.

“Due to the market demands of neighboring countries, there are many people storing and trading these [wildlife parts],” Ayeyawady Region Forestry Department director Khin Maung Myint, told the Myanmar Times. He explained that one facility that was raided in his jurisdiction was used for making decorative hangings, jewelry and accessories, and traditional medicines out of animal skins and other parts.

The six suspects have been charged under Myanmar’s Protection of Wildlife and Protected Areas Law, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years for the killing or wounding of a protected animal.


Research from the last year has showed a spike in elephant killings as demand for elephant skin has risen across the region. Whereas ecological damage from the ivory trade has been limited by regulations in China and by its specific targeting of elephants with tusks, elephant skin hunters are indiscriminate in their killings, and skin products, which often lose their resemblance to natural elephant skin after they are processed, are more difficult to detect.



Myanmar’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation reported last year that poachers in Myanmar kill one elephant every week. If the killing continues at the same rate, the country’s elephant population could be extinct within a few years.


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Breaking! 6 Alleged Wildlife Traffickers Arrested In Myanmar, Southeast Asia; Elephant Hides, Deer Horns & Skulls Among Confiscated Items – World Animal News



Six men in the Mandalay, Ayeyarwady, and Bago regions of Myanmar have been arrested for allegedly storing and selling wild animal parts including elephant hides, deer and bison horns, turtle shells and meats, and porcupine quills as well as the bones, claws, paws, and skulls of various animals.
According to the Myanmar Times, the Forestry Department police department issued a statement yesterday explaining that the arrests stemmed from separate law enforcement operations and subsequent raids on June 9th.
The yet-to-be-named suspects, who were charged under the country’s Protection of Wildlife and Protected Areas Law, may face up to seven years in jail for the killing and trading of protected wildlife.
Sadly, the growing demand in surrounding countries was cited as the reason that so many people are now storing and trading wildlife parts in the area.
U Khin Maung Myint, Director of Forestry Department of Ayeyarwady Region noted that the “market emerged as the horns and hides of the animal are hung on the walls for decorative purposes, made into hand wear accessories, and mixed with other medicinal roots for medicine.”
What pointless reasons to take sentient beings lives.
It’s as shameful as it is sad!


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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

New Sanctuary Will Give A New Home to Retired Logging Elephants



FOUR PAWS International is developing an incredible, expansive elephant sanctuary in Myanmar. This centre will allow elephants formerly used for labour or tourist activities to retire, living the rest of their lives in peace and comfort.

Myanmar contains around 2,000 wild elephants and around 6,000 working elephants, most of whom are used in the timber trade. In order to protect Myanmar’s dwindling forests, new environmental regulations were introduced, leading to reforms in the logging industry which resulted in ‘unemployment’ for many of these animals. As a consequence, an estimated 1,000 elephants are no longer needed for industry and are destined to wind up dead or used in cruel tourist attractions.

“It’s harsh, but for their owners, these elephants are now useless and a financial burden. The animals are therefore killed or sold into the tourism industry,” said Dr Amir Khalil, veterinarian for FOUR PAWS. “These magnificent, endangered animals do not deserve death or an equally cruel career change. At our first elephant sanctuary, the animals can recover from the exertions of their past and, ideally be reintroduced to the wild.”

FOUR PAWS has a solution for this problem. They have started creating Elephant’s Lake, a sanctuary area covering 6,880 acres of land. When complete, it will be one of the largest elephant sanctuaries in Southeast Asia and a new home for former logging, orphaned or injured elephants, starting from the end of 2018.

A press release from Four Paws states that: “The goal of Elephant’s Lake’s comprehensive rehabilitation program is to bring together new prides and subsequently release the animals into the adjacent North Zar Ma Yi Forest Reserve. If this is not possible, the elephants will remain at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives.”

Early this year, Myanmar published the first-ever Myanmar Elephant Conservation Plan (MECAP). Produced in coordination with many renowned wildlife advocacy groups, the document outlines policies that will ensure the survival of elephants in the country over the next century.


To read the full article, click on the story title.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Elephant treatment programme still facing challenges



The elephant treatment programme, which was started to provide free treatment through mobile elephant clinics (MECs) to elephants owned by the Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE), private enterprises and wildlife elephants since 2016, is still facing many challenges.
The MTE is providing free treatment through two MECs to over 3,000 elephants owned by it and other wildlife elephants, and providing treatment through one MEC to elephants owned by private enterprises. The mobile elephant clinic team includes 20 veterinary surgeons and 32 elephant veterinary training students. The team is providing services such as vaccinations, deworming, removing of old abscess and surgeries, treatments, and footcare management processes.
“One of the big challenges for the team is looking for private elephant owners. Next, the team lacks experienced veterinary surgeons. We also need sustainable funding for the mobile elephant clinics. We have only one vehicle for private enterprise elephants. In this case, when we are providing treatment in the southern part of Myanmar, we cannot go to the northern part of Myanmar if there is an emergency case,” said MTE elephant veterinary professor U Zaw Min Oo.
Moreover, the MTE set up a free elephant hospital in 2014 at 13 miles entry from Oakdwin- Pauk Khaung road. However, most of the private enterprise elephant owners do not access the treatment, said U Moe Myint, Deputy General Manger of MTE.
“The private elephant owners do not want their elephants to be treated at the elephant hospital. They also do not want our team conducting a medical check-up on their elephant, as they are only concerned with their business. We provide medicine and doctors free of charge,” he added.


To read the full article, click on the story title.

SCBI Scientists Find Elephant Poaching Crisis in Myanmar



Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientists and Clemson University scientists are tracking elephants via satellite collars in Myanmar, where their efforts to understand how Asian elephants use their habitat has revealed a troubling rise in poaching. These elephants are being poached for their skin, not ivory. That means males, females and calves are all victims of poaching. Their work on the ground to detect and prevent poaching and reaching out to the local community is helping save this critically endangered species.


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https://nationalzoo.si.edu/conservation-ecology-center/news/scbi-scientists-find-elephant-poaching-crisis-myanmar

Fragmentation of Asia's remaining wildlands: implications for Asian elephant conservation



Habitat loss and fragmentation are main causes for Asian elephant population declines. We mapped wildlands - large, unfragmented and undeveloped areas - asking: (1) Where are the largest wildlands that constitute elephant habitats? (2) What proportion of these wildlands is protected? (3) What is their potential for elephant conservation? Our study demonstrates that wildlands constitute only 51% of the Asian elephant range. Myanmar has the largest wildland (∼170,000 km2), followed by Thailand and India. In Principal Components Analysis (PCA), the first two components explained 73% of the variation in fragmentation among ranges. We identified three fragmentation clusters from the PCA. Cluster A contains large ranges with unfragmented wildlands; cluster B includes ranges with well-developed transportation networks and large human populations; and cluster C contains ranges with severely fragmented wildlands. In cluster A, we identified four ranges with elephant populations >1000 animals: ARYO, MYUC, BNMH and BITE. Together with ranges that support >1000 elephants in cluster B, these A ranges have great potential for long-term elephant conservation. We propose that fragmentation clusters and population size can be used to identify different elephant monitoring and management zones.


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https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/animal-conservation-forum/article/fragmentation-of-asias-remaining-wildlands-implications-for-asian-elephant-conservation/6889AFD05074BD8E81BA1139903E71BD

Friday, May 25, 2018

Villagers flee civil war in Myanmar by elephant



The people of Awng Lawt in Kachin state were forced from their homes by escalating fighting between rebels from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Myanmar's military earlier this year ...


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http://today24.press/news/villagers-flee-civil-war-in-myanmar-by-elephant

Burma: Elephants come to the rescue of sick, elderly fleeing Kachin fighting



AS the decades-long civil war continues to rage on in Burma’s northern Kachin state, mahouts and their elephants are doing what they can to help the displaced sick, young and elderly villagers fleeing the fighting.

While sporadic fighting has continued in the region since the breakdown of a ceasefire between the powerful Kachin Independence Army (KIA) rebel group and Burma’s army seven years ago, rights groups say the army has stepped up its campaign while global attention focuses on the Rohingya crisis, which has seen almost 700,000 people flee to Bangladesh. The fighting in Kachin escalated significantly in mid-January.


The United Nations says more than 6,800 people have fled since April and many civilians remain trapped in conflict zones, unable to escape.

People fleeing the fighting are now sheltering in local churches, existing displacement sites, or staying with host families where they have received initial humanitarian assistance from the government and local organisations.

Travelling through dense jungle and across treacherous rivers is a sad necessity for those hoping to escape, as the people of Awng Lawt found when they were forced to flee.

For three days, the group of villagers took shelter in their paddy fields as the sound of gunfire and fighter jets came ever closer.


To read the full article, click on the story title.




Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Palin Kanthayar elephant resort crowded with visitors



The number of visitors who visit the newly opened Palin Kanthayar elephant resort in NyaungU township, Mandalay region has increased day by day with those riding elephants, exploring natural beauty and observing elephants having a bath.



Visitors throng the resort over the weekends, feeding elephants with maize, sugarcane and water melon.— Ko Htein-Ngathayauk


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First ‘private elephant lake’ opens in Bago



By HEIN KO SOE | FRONTIER

KYAUKTAGA, BAGO REGION - Two animal rights NGOs have teamed up with the Myanmar government to open the first “private elephant lake” in the country, in Bago Region, about 170 kilometres (83 miles) from Yangon.

Elephant Lake, located at the Yenwe Forest Reserve in Kyauktaga Township is a collaboration between organisation Mingalar Myanmar, international animal charity Four Paws International, and the government’s Forestry Department, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

Initially located on 20 hectares (50 acres) of land owned by the forestry department, it will initially house six elephants, but eventually plans to welcome 3,000 elephants on 17,000 hectares of land, making it the largest such sanctuary in Southeast Asia, said U Kyaw Htaik, deputy general manager of Myanmar Timber Enterprise. All of the elephants at the site will be former loggers from MTE.

The centre, which the organisers say will open later this year, includes a medical treatment facility, and housing for the elephants, including permanent housing for retired elephants, and rehabilitation facilities for those they hope to re-introduce into the wild. Organisers also plan to spend between $4 million and $5 million to develop the project, including building ecotourism facilities on-site.


To read the full article, click on the story title.

Online skin trade fuels Burma elephant slaughter: conservation group



An emerging online market for elephant skin in China is threatening the survival of the creatures in neighbouring Myanmar as poaching intensifies to meet demand, conservationists warned Tuesday.

Myanmar has watched with alarm as the number of slain elephants found in the country’s forests rises each year, with many blaming the trade in the mammal’s hide.

The biggest market for the products is in China, where the tough skin is ground up and used to treat stomach or human skin ailments, or sold as jewellery in the form of blood-red beads and pendants.

The items are increasingly advertised and sold on the internet, according to the UK-based charity Elephant Family, which outlined the findings in a new study called “Skinned: The growing appetite for Asian Elephants”.

Unlike poaching for ivory, the skin trade does not discriminate between genders and ages in elephants, making them far more vulnerable.

“This means that no elephant is safe,” said the group’s acting conservation director Belinda Stewart-Cox. “Myanmar is losing too many elephants too fast.”

Elephant Family monitored multiple internet forums and interacted with traderswithout making purchasesto learn more about the supply chain.

Out of eleven online sellers who said they knew the product origin, nine cited Myanmar and two Laos.

One China-based trader who claims to have “invented” elephant skin beads said she gets the material from a Myanmar border town, calling the sourcing “long-term and nonstop,” the report said.

Some 2,000 wild elephants are thought to be left in Myanmar, the second largest population in the region after Thailand.

But a combination of weak oversight and lawless border regions outside central government control has made Myanmar a key hub in the global wildlife trafficking trade.

Last year 59 elephant carcasses were found in the wild, a jump from four in 2010, according to government statistics cited by the report.

While the INGO said it was hard to prove with certainty whether the rise in skin product sales was directly linked to the rise in poaching, the parallel surge leaves few other explanations.

The researchers also documented the sale of elephant skin powder through China-based traditional medicine and pharmaceutical platforms, though it remains unclear whether African or Asian elephants were used in the goods.


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http://www.intellasia.net/online-skin-trade-fuels-burma-elephant-slaughter-conservation-group-663656

People who help arrest wild elephant killer honored



Gwa, 4 May

Cash was presented to 11 service personnel and one community leader who assisted in the arrest of wild elephant killers in Gwa township, Rakhine state on 4 April with an address by Head of the General Administration Department U Aung Myo Naing.



The program was initiated by Wildlife Conservation Partners Association and World Wildlife Conservation Fund in order to effectively prevent the killing of wildlife.—Township IPRD


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Saturday, May 05, 2018

Online skin trade fuels Burma elephant slaughter: conservation group



An emerging online market for elephant skin in China is threatening the survival of the creatures in neighbouring Myanmar as poaching intensifies to meet demand, conservationists warned Tuesday.

Myanmar has watched with alarm as the number of slain elephants found in the country’s forests rises each year, with many blaming the trade in the mammal’s hide.

The biggest market for the products is in China, where the tough skin is ground up and used to treat stomach or human skin ailments, or sold as jewellery in the form of blood-red beads and pendants.

The items are increasingly advertised and sold on the internet, according to the UK-based charity Elephant Family, which outlined the findings in a new study called “Skinned: The growing appetite for Asian Elephants”.

Unlike poaching for ivory, the skin trade does not discriminate between genders and ages in elephants, making them far more vulnerable.

“This means that no elephant is safe,” said the group’s acting conservation director Belinda Stewart-Cox. “Myanmar is losing too many elephants too fast.”

Elephant Family monitored multiple internet forums and interacted with traderswithout making purchasesto learn more about the supply chain.

Out of eleven online sellers who said they knew the product origin, nine cited Myanmar and two Laos.

One China-based trader who claims to have “invented” elephant skin beads said she gets the material from a Myanmar border town, calling the sourcing “long-term and nonstop,” the report said.

Some 2,000 wild elephants are thought to be left in Myanmar, the second largest population in the region after Thailand.

But a combination of weak oversight and lawless border regions outside central government control has made Myanmar a key hub in the global wildlife trafficking trade.

Last year 59 elephant carcasses were found in the wild, a jump from four in 2010, according to government statistics cited by the report.

While the INGO said it was hard to prove with certainty whether the rise in skin product sales was directly linked to the rise in poaching, the parallel surge leaves few other explanations.

The researchers also documented the sale of elephant skin powder through China-based traditional medicine and pharmaceutical platforms, though it remains unclear whether African or Asian elephants were used in the goods.

Please credit and share this article with others using this link:
http://www.intellasia.net/online-skin-trade-fuels-burma-elephant-slaughter-conservation-group-663656

‘No elephant is safe’: China’s online market for animal’s skin has decimated Myanmar population



An emerging online market for elephant skin in China is threatening the survival of the creatures in neighbouring Myanmar as poaching intensifies to meet demand, conservationists warned on Tuesday.

Myanmar has watched with alarm as the number of slain elephants found in the country’s forests rises each year, with many blaming the trade in the mammal’s hide.

The biggest market for the products is in China, where the tough skin is ground up and used to treat stomach or human skin ailments, or sold as jewellery in the form of blood-red beads and pendants. The items are increasingly advertised and sold on the internet, according to the UK-based charity Elephant Family, which outlined the findings in a new study called “Skinned: The growing appetite for Asian Elephants”

China imposes total ban on elephant ivory sales

Unlike poaching for ivory, the skin trade does not discriminate between genders and ages in elephants, making them far more vulnerable.

“This means that no elephant is safe,” said the group’s acting conservation director Belinda Stewart-Cox. “Myanmar is losing too many elephants too fast.”
This means that no elephant is safe. Myanmar is losing too many elephants too fast.

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http://www.phuketnews.easybranches.com/story/no-elephant-is-safe-china-s-online-market-for-animal-s-skin-has-decimated-myanmar-population-295488



Life of Dales vet, who died aged 98, celebrated



THE life of a Dales vet who saw action in battle was celebrated in Dent and Arkholme last Friday.

John Douglas Parkinson, who had run a practice in Sedbergh,was born on December 2, 1919 in Quernmore, near Lancaster. He attended Lancaster Royal Grammar School from 1931-1938, going on to secure a place at Liverpool University School of Veterinary Studies from where he qualified as a veterinary surgeon in 1943.

After a spell in practice in Aylesbury, he volunteered for the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in 1944. He was posted to Burma where he joined the 64th Indian Infantry Division, responsible for pack mules and elephants on the front line.

Mr Parkinson, who died aged 98, saw action in the battles for Mandalay, Kalaw and the break out of Japanese forces from Pegu Yomas.

Promoted to major as deputy assistant director of Veterinary and Remount Services, he remained in Burma until 1947. When he returned home he started a vets practice in Sedbergh.

He spent time as chairman of the housing committee and acquired a small farm in Garsdale. Mr Parkinson was awarded a fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for his work on caesarean operations on cattle and sheep in general practice.

He moved to Plymouth in 1959 after purchasing a partnership in a mixed practice and lived on a farm on the edge of Dartmoor. Mr Parkinson retired in 1985 and moved to live near Carnforth.

He is survived by his second wife, Mary Christina, five children, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Mr Parkinson’s funeral took place in Dent and a separate celebration of his life took place in Arkholme.

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http://www.thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk/news/16193119.Life_of_Dales_vet__who_died_aged_98__celebrated/



Sunday, April 29, 2018

Two Elephant Poachers Detained in Chaungtha Forest Reserve



Two suspected poachers were detained by a combined team of authorities after an elephant carcass and weapons used for poaching were discovered in Chaungtha Forest Reserve near Ngwesaung Beach, Pathein Township in Irrawaddy Region on Sunday afternoon.

After receiving a tip-off about an elephant carcass, authorities questioned two suspects from Thitphyu Village, leading to the discovery of the carcass and weapons used in hunting the elephant.

“We have detained two suspected poachers and seized the elephant carcass, its removed skin, firearms and poisoned arrows. Four people were involved in the poaching but two of them managed to escape. The police are trying to arrest the escapees. The Forest Department will formally charge them for poaching,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Khin Maung Latt told the Irrawaddy.

The combined team of the local police, forest rangers and officials from the Forestry Department detained the two suspected poachers, Ko Htwe, known as Thaung Aye, and Nga Du, known as Chit Min Naing, together with two firearms, arrows, bottles of poison, gunpowder, knives, axes, elephant skin and flesh.

“Local people reported to the authorities that they had discovered an elephant carcass. When the team arrived at the village, the carcass had already been hidden. So, the team questioned the two suspected poachers who lived nearest to the scene. The two admitted poaching the elephant and showed the police the carcass, its skin and weapons,” said Dr. Lin Lin Tun, leader of a local elephant conservation group.

The two suspected poachers have been detained at Ngwesaung Police Station and will be charged under Section 37 (a) of the Protection of Wildlife Act.

Poachers killed about 40 wild elephants, which were searching for food in Pathein, Ngapudaw and Thabaung during the period from 2011 to 2017, according to the Pathein Township Police Force.

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https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/two-elephant-poachers-detained-chaungtha-forest-reserve.html

Monday, April 23, 2018

Tour operators, timber company see bright future for elephant tourism



The government-run Myanma Timber Enterprise had earned about K430 million (US$325,535) since it began operating 18 elephant conservation-based tourism camps around the country two years ago.

The government has banned timber extraction for a period of one year for the whole country and for 10 years in Bago Yoma Hills in central Myanmar, effective from the 2016-17 fiscal year.

As a result of the ban, the management of Myanma Timber Enterprise converted its elephant camps into elephant conservation-based tourism camps in a bid to earn revenue while providing income for 3000 mahouts, or elephant handlers, and help maintain the company’s herd of pachyderms, which are used to move felled trees out of the woods.

“Elephant conservation-based tourism has proven successful. Also we need to do more hospitality training for people who live in the camps and build more infrastructure in the camps,” U Moe Myint, deputy general manager of Myanma Timber, told The Myanmar Times.

Myanma Timber owns 3078 elephants, of which 514 are under 4, 734 are between 4 and 18, and 1597 are 18 to 55 years old. The rest, 233, are retired elephants.

Each elephant above 4 years old needs a mahout to train it for working with people, which is why the company has more than 2500 mahouts.

Among the 3078 elephants, the company uses 205 elephants at its 18 elephant camps, it said.

“We are looking for more places to open elephant conservation-based tourism camps,” he added.

The camps charge an entrance fee of K1000, and an elephant ride costs K5000 for locals. However, foreign tourists are charged K20,000 for the entrance fee and elephant ride.

To read the full article, click on the story title.

SCBI Scientists Find Elephant Poaching Crisis in Myanmar



Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientists and Clemson University scientists are tracking elephants via satellite collars in Myanmar, where their efforts to understand how Asian elephants use their habitat has revealed a troubling rise in poaching. These elephants are being poached for their skin, not ivory. That means males, females and calves are all victims of poaching. Their work on the ground to detect and prevent poaching and reaching out to the local community is helping save this critically endangered species.

 Please credit and share this article with others using this link:
https://nationalzoo.si.edu/conservation-ecology-center/news/scbi-scientists-find-elephant-poaching-crisis-myanmar

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hunters prey on wild elephants in Yoma



Elephant hunters are targetting the Rakhine Yoma elephant sanctuary, which is considered one of the last remaining safe havens for wild elephants in Myanmar.

Approximately 100 wild elephants inhabit the sanctuary, but this area is being threatened by brutal attacks on wild elephants nationwide, according to conservationists.


“This sanctuary is a refuge for the remaining wild elephants.” said U Aung Kyaw, wildlife trade coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

“In 2011 and 2012, it was a good place for wild elephants, but there were elephant killings on occasion in the sanctuary,” he added.


According to a WCS statement released on Monday, a hunter was arrested on April 2 for killing a wild elephant in the sanctuary.

Authorities are still hunting for three other people involved in the killing of the elephant, the statement said.

About 114.1 kilograms of elephant parts, such as dried trunk, skin and meat were recovered recently in the area, according to the Forest Department.

“It is a rare case in this sanctuary. And we can say it is the first time an elephant was killed in this area,” said U San Win, administrator of the sanctuary. “Four people were arrested, including a local resident.”

U San Win said there are 24 staff in the sanctuary and 17 of them regularly patrol the area.

“We have very few people and we can’t cover all of the area. If we had enough staff and we could cooperate with the police to stop wildlife hunting in the area,” he added.

The sanctuary is a very important haven for wild elephants and other rare species of wild animals but if they cannot be protected, they will face extinction, according to U San Win. The wildlife reserve, located in a remote area of the Rakhine Yoma range in southwest Myanmar. It comprises 39,332 square kilometres, is very difficult to access, and is one of the biggest elephant habitats.

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https://www.mmtimes.com/news/hunters-prey-wild-elephants-yoma.html

Tour operators, timber company see bright future for elephant tourism



The government-run Myanma Timber Enterprise had earned about K430 million (US$325,535) since it began operating 18 elephant conservation-based tourism camps around the country two years ago.

The government has banned timber extraction for a period of one year for the whole country and for 10 years in Bago Yoma Hills in central Myanmar, effective from the 2016-17 fiscal year.

As a result of the ban, the management of Myanma Timber Enterprise converted its elephant camps into elephant conservation-based tourism camps in a bid to earn revenue while providing income for 3000 mahouts, or elephant handlers, and help maintain the company’s herd of pachyderms, which are used to move felled trees out of the woods.

“Elephant conservation-based tourism has proven successful. Also we need to do more hospitality training for people who live in the camps and build more infrastructure in the camps,” U Moe Myint, deputy general manager of Myanma Timber, told The Myanmar Times.

Myanma Timber owns 3078 elephants, of which 514 are under 4, 734 are between 4 and 18, and 1597 are 18 to 55 years old. The rest, 233, are retired elephants.

Each elephant above 4 years old needs a mahout to train it for working with people, which is why the company has more than 2500 mahouts.

Among the 3078 elephants, the company uses 205 elephants at its 18 elephant camps, it said.

“We are looking for more places to open elephant conservation-based tourism camps,” he added.

The camps charge an entrance fee of K1000, and an elephant ride costs K5000 for locals. However, foreign tourists are charged K20,000 for the entrance fee and elephant ride.

“We have to return to the government all income from entrance fees and elephant rided,” U Moe Myint said. “That income is only enough to cover the elephants’ food and medicines but is not sufficient to pay the mahouts, who are paid by the government.”

The Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA) and Myanma Timber met to discuss developing more elephant conservation-based tourism camps on April 9.

“There a lot of things done with elephants in the tourism industry of other countries, and we need to do more,” said U Min Thein, vice chairman of UMTA. “Also, Myanma Timber and tourism operators need to cooperate more.”

Elephant conservation-based tourism needs more promotion by cooperating with tourism operators, he said.

“This kind of tourism would be very successful if we strengthen cooperation,” U Min Thein said. “But we need to train the elephants more and promote the camps more.”

There are 52 veterinarians for the 3078 elephants, so the government needs to encourage more people to study veterinary medicine to ensure the conservation of Myanmar’s treasured elephants, said Dr Zaw Min Oo, a vet and manager of Myanma Timber.

“Some elephant camps are very far from cities, so vets have to stay for more than 20 days in a month, and move from camp to camp with poor facilities,” he said.

The younger generation is not interested in veterinary jobs, because they have no benefits, status or incentives,” he said.

According to the Emergency Elephant Response Unit, 59 wild elephants were killed during the 2017-18 fiscal year by poaching, which has become a major threat to the animals.

Burma’s wild elephant numbers have dropped dramatically over the past 50 years and appear to still be in decline, according to elephant conservation group EleAid.

Among the major threats are poaching and habitat loss and fragmentation, it added.

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