Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Myanmar And The Elephant Project Made History By Signing Agreement For Elephant's Care


The Myanmar government and The Elephant Project signed a new historical agreement that aimed to relocate elephants into a safer place, avoiding human conflicts. It was the first time the country made a settlement for the care of this animal after the government-owned elephants were turned into an attraction and forced to perform in parks, following the ban of raw timber export in 2014.

"We have to take action now," Dane Waters, The Elephant Project founder, and president, said, per the South China Morning Post. The worsening case of deforestation in Myanmar destroys Elephants' habitat, so they are left wandering in villages in search of food. However, their search often leads to human-elephant conflicts that put both parties in danger.

Under the new agreement, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation and The Elephant Project's forest department will look for elephants that need to be moved. They also have to find a place where they can be safely relocated.

The Elephant Project will begin relocating 10 to 15 elephants to designated safe zones. However, the organization has bigger plans to build a sanctuary that will be home to Myanmar's many captive elephants. About 5,520 gentle giants live in captivity, which are almost two folds of the 3,000 estimated elephants that live in the wild.

"Our sanctuary plan is different to any that has ever been built before," Waters said. If it happens, it will be the biggest sanctuary ever constructed and may hold up to 3,000 elephants.

There will be different investment opportunities to fund the sanctuary project. It includes ethical elephant experiences and eco-friendly stays near the shelter. Waters assured that these things would be built with the elephants' welfare in mind. "Investment is going into protecting elephants," he said.

Freelance documentary photographer Ko Myo revealed elephants' story in Myanmar is a sad one. According to The Irrawaddy, he saw how people treated these animals when wild elephants passed by a town in Kyaukpadaung, Mandalay Region.

About six elephants from the Bago mountain range wandered into Kyaukpadaung Township. When villagers saw them, they came together and used tame elephants to force them to change their director. They went back to their habitat in the mountains, where elephant poaching usually happened.

If wild elephants continuously lost their habitat, there will be more conflict with humans and illegal trading. Hence, their species may disappear in Myanmar.

Ko Ye Min Thwin, Senior Communications Officer at WWF Myanmar, said Ko Myo's photos could help people to know more about elephants. "They are lovely and worth protecting; that we should value them and they don't deserve to be killed," he added. The photographer, on the other hand, disclosed that the only solution to solve this problem is to raise awareness and urge people to stop using products made of animals' part.

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http://en.businesstimes.cn/articles/109440/20190319/myanmar-and-the-elephant-project-made-history-by-signing-agreement-for-elephants-care.htm

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

MYANMAR BURNS $1.15 MILLION WORTH OF ILLEGAL IVORY


Myanmar burnt $1.15 million worth of ivory and other seized illegal wildlife parts in a symbolic stand against the trade.

The event was organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, according to the Chinese media outlet Xinhuanet.

The outlet reports that 219 pieces of ivory were burnt, alongside 210 pieces of dried elephant’s trunk, 527 wild animal bones, 800 horns, 134.7 kg of pangolin scales, and 241 other wildlife parts.

The event intended to raise awareness of the legal stance on the wildlife part trade in Myanmar, and send a message to the general public that wildlife crime — including poaching — is not tolerated across the country.

U Win Naing Thaw — the director of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation — told the Myanmar Times prior to the event, “I regret the burning of the wildlife parts, but I feel sorrier for the live animals that are traded illegally.” He continued, “it is illegal to sell these parts on the black market, so they are being burned.”

More and more countries are turning their backs on the sale of ivory. In April last year, the UK announced one of the world’s toughest bans on the trade, banning ivory items of all ages. In other countries, ivory is allowed if it can be dated past a certain point. If the law on ivory is broken, offenders could face up to five years in prison.

The UK’s environment secretary Michael Gove said in a statement at the time, “Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol, so we will introduce one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales to protect elephants for future generations.”

“The ban on ivory sales we will bring into law will reaffirm the UK’s global leadership on this critical issue,” he continued. “Demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.”

Last February, Hong Kong also voted to ban the ivory trade for good by 2021, and in the U.S., Illinois became the ninth state to ban the sale of ivory and rhino horn in August last year.

Earlier this month, Myanmar opened an elephant museum in Yangon. The Irrawaddy reports that the site is dedicated to raising awareness of the plights facing elephants, including poaching.

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https://www.livekindly.co/myanmar-burns-1-15-million-worth-of-illegal-ivory/

Friday, March 08, 2019

Elephantine attraction opens up in Yangon


It’s not often that a story about elephant tusks goes viral, but that’s what happened last week.

An article in the media about the tusks of a sadan (royal) elephant being on display at the Elephant Museum spread like wildfire on social media, due to a mistaken belief that the tusks concerned were from the royal elephant mentioned in the Jataka tales, body of literature concerning the previous births of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form.

In fact, the tusks at the centre of attention were from a royal white elephant named Nivana pitsaya Naga Raja from the Konbaung dynasty.

Myanmar kings adored and valued white elephants as revered symbols of power and good fortune. Nivana pitsaya Naga Raja was captured in the forest of Bago Yoma during the reign of King Bodawphayar in 1806.

The white elephant was the royal elephant over the rule of five kings, from King Bodawphyar to King Mindon, a span of 51 years. When the elephant died in 1857, its tusks were removed and displayed in front of the palace.

However, the tusks were taken to England after the exile of the last monarch of Myanmar in 1885 and were only returned to Myanmar in 1965.

Before the tusks were moved to the newly opened Elephant Museum located in the grounds of the Yangon Zoo, they were on display at the Natural History Museum also located in the zoo.

The tusks are now on display Myanmar's first elephant museum, which opened on Sunday in conjunction with World Wildlife day.

The new museum offers plenty of information on the evolution of elephants, how they were relied on and revered in Myanmar, and the roles the animals played in religious events.

Beyond history, the museum also educates visitors about the threats the animals face today due to habitat and food sources shrinking, conflict with humans, and poaching for tusks and parts in illegal trade.

The museum has a wonderful displays of ancient elephant fossils, elephant-handling equipment, radio collars and camera traps used in elephant conservation, and now illegal and restricted objects made from elephants ivory and bones, rare black ivory, elephant's body parts.

“Currently, wild elephants are being illegally poached and killed by selfish and senseless humans,” said U Own Win, Union Minister Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

“Even though we and relevant authorities have been working together to protect elephants and take legal action against poaching, they are still being killed. The opening of this museum will help educate people about the needs for conserving our treasured elephant species".

Myanmar has the second-highest number of elephants in Asia, after India.

The stated objectives of the museum are to protect and conserve wild elephants in natural forest areas, to reduce elephant and human conflict, to create awareness among the public and to let public join in efforts to tackle the killing of wild elephants.

“This museum doesn't mean that we have given up hope for elephants in the wild. It is meant educate students and children about how elephants are threatened in the wild and help to reverse the tide,” said U Saw Htoo Tha Po, an expert with the Wildlife Conservation Society of Myanmar.

The elephant museum will be a part of the Natural Historyl Museum in the Yangon Zoological Gardens.

The museum is open every day of the week and entry will be free until May.

The museum run by the Forest Department was set up with financial and technical support from WWF- Myanmar.

“People have been flocking here since the doors opened" said U Myo Kyaw Thu, manager of the Yangon Zoological Gardens.

There are currently some 1500 wild elephants and between 3000 and 5000 domesticated elephants in Myanmar.

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https://www.mmtimes.com/news/elephantine-attraction-opens-yangon.html

Thursday, March 07, 2019

EU study boost fight against illegal wildlife trade in Mekong region


The European Union has launched an intensive study about the illegal wildlife trade in the Greater Mekong Region and its threat to biodiversity.

The report, entitled “Larger than Tigers”, hopes to encourage the Greater Mekong countries, which include Myanmar, to intensify efforts against the illegal wildlife trade, which is a threat to biodiversity in the region.

According to the report, there are 795 threatened species in the region, of which 123 are endangered due to indiscriminate hunting and trading.

It noted that China and Vietnam are the two largest markets for wildlife products globally, and the Greater Mekong countries are the source, transit routes, and markets for these illicit products.

In Myanmar, hunting for illegal wildlife is pervasive, although it is reported that 70 percent of the country's territory have been declared as protected areas. There are 331 threatened species in Myanmar, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The endangered species include birds, primates, banteng (wild cattle), the Asian elephant, Eld's deer, freshwater turtles, pangolin and tigers, among others.

"The EU is committed to wildlife conservation in Myanmar and across the world. Myanmar's beautiful rainforests and majestic animals are threatened by wildlife crime and environmental degradation," said EU Ambassador Kristian Schmidt.

He added that the EU supports Myanmar's efforts to safeguard its precious natural heritage for future generations, including by immediately stopping all illegal wildlife trade, and he hoped the report “will strengthen everyone's resolve to do so.”

U Saw Htun, country director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said "the population of keystone species has been decreasing at an alarming rate, and several species could go extinct if there are no effective actions to combat wildlife crime."

Illegal wildlife products include more than 1000 plant and animals species used for traditional medicine, exotic food, ornaments and clothing, and the exotic pet trade.

In Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth €17 million (K29.06 billion/US$19.21 million) annually.

The Larger than Tigers report is the product of two years of intensive, collaborative research involving 28 authors and consultation with 382 experts from over 150 organisations in over 25 Asian countries.

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https://www.mmtimes.com/news/eu-study-boost-fight-against-illegal-wildlife-trade-mekong-region.html

Monday, March 04, 2019

Myanmar destroys confiscated ivory, opens elephant museum


Confiscated ivory and other animal parts are displayed before being destroyed during a ceremony to mark World Wildlife Day at Yangon Zoological Gardens in Yangon, Myanmar on Sunday.

World Wildlife Day (WWD) is marked annually on the 3 March to celebrate and raise awareness of the varied forms of flora and fauna in the world.

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https://www.euronews.com/2019/03/04/myanmar-destroys-confiscated-ivory-opens-elephant-museum

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Myanmar opens elephant museum in Yangon


A woman views an exhibit during the opening ceremony of the first elephant museum in Yangon, Myanmar, March 3, 2019. Funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the elephant museum opened as a part of the Natural History Museum in Yangon Zoological Garden compound on Sunday to commemorate World Wildlife Day. (Xinhua/U Aung).

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http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-03/03/c_137866033.htm

MYANMAR-YANGON-ELEPHANT IVORY AND WILDLIFE PARTS-DESTRUCTION


YANGON, March 3, 2019 - Confiscated wildlife parts to be destroyed are seen during the destruction ceremony of confiscated elephant ivory and wildlife parts to commemorate World Wildlife Day at Yangon Zoological Garden compound in Yangon, Myanmar, March 3, 2019.

A forest officer shows an elephant tusk to be destroyed during the destruction ceremony of confiscated elephant ivory and wildlife parts to commemorate World Wildlife Day at Yangon Zoological Garden compound in Yangon, Myanmar, March 3, 2019.

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https://www.prokerala.com/news/photos/myanmar-yangon-elephant-ivory-and-wildlife-parts-destruction-535676.html

Saturday, March 02, 2019

EU congratulates Myanmar on tackling illegal wildlife trade


The European Union (EU) has congratulated Myanmar on tackling illegal wildlife trade in a statement to mark World Wildlife Day that falls on 3 March.

The following is their statement:

The European Union (EU) Delegation issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission in Myanmar:

Wildlife trafficking has become one of the most profitable criminal activities worldwide, with devastating effects for biodiversity and very damaging impact on sustainable development and poverty eradication.

On the occasion of World Wildlife Day on 3 March 2019, the Heads of Mission of the European Union (EU) and its Member States wish to congratulate the Government of Myanmar for the reinforced initiatives taken over the past year to protect the country's magnificent and endangered wildlife and biodiversity.

In May 2018, the Union Parliament passed the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Law, which is one of the strongest wildlife protection laws in the region. On World Wildlife Day, the Government of Myanmar will publicly destroy seized ivory and wildlife parts. This is part of a series of events to destroy all stockpiles. The Yangon Regional Government has banned all illegal sales of wildlife in Yangon Region as of October 2018, and the Union Government has committed to roll this ban out nationwide. The Government has also increased public awareness campaigns and engagement on illegal wildlife trade issues through public campaigns, building on the Voices for Wildlife coalition, which is supported by several EU Member States. In October 2018, the UK hosted the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade where the Government of Myanmar detailed its achievements over the past year.

These steps are hugely commendable, however Myanmar still faces challenges. For example, elephant poaching for ivory and other parts is still a huge issue both globally and in Myanmar. Although the elephant skinning crisis in Myanmar has reduced, thanks, in part, to increased wildlife ranger patrols, Myanmar is still facing a struggle to protect its wild elephant population, and the populations of some of its other endangered species, such as the pangolin, tiger and turtles.

Therefore, we would also like to take this opportunity to state our support for further action by the Government of Myanmar to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. For example, we believe that it would have a positive impact if the Government of Myanmar could fast-track the nationwide ban on the illegal sale of wildlife parts, including in Myanmar’s border areas.

Other actions, such as effective enforcement of the ban on wildlife sales and tackling the illicit financial flows from illegal wildlife trade would reinforce the message that Myanmar has a zero tolerance approach to wildlife crime. As long as criminals continue to sell illegal wildlife products to satisfy consumer demand in China and elsewhere, Myanmar’s wildlife is at risk, and this trade will continue to fill the pockets of criminal gangs, and rob Myanmar of its beautiful and diverse wildlife.

Ending wildlife trafficking is a shared responsibility and we must all take concrete action. In 2016, the EU adopted an EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking and since then the EU and its Member States have ramped up their actions for strengthening the EU’s role in the global fight against these illegal activities through greater enforcement of our comprehensive legal framework, better cooperation and more effective prevention. The next Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES CoP18, Sri Lanka) – to which Myanmar acceded in 1997, and the EU became a party in 2015 – will allow us to turn our commitments into actions to address wildlife trafficking worldwide.

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http://www.mizzima.com/article/eu-congratulates-myanmar-tackling-illegal-wildlife-trade

Elephant encounters on Thai trip of a lifetime


There in front of us, down in the valley below, was a herd of wild elephants and their adorable babies. We weren’t on the plains of Africa, but in Thailand’s Kui Buri National Park, where incredibly, visitors have a 95% success rate of encountering these majestic beasts.

Not only Asian elephants, but leopards, rare birds and the endangered Bengal tiger are rumoured to still roam free in this protected area close to Hua-Hin and the border with Burma (Myanmar).

Considering so many of Thailand’s elephants have been “domesticated” for logging, tourist shows, zoos, or killed by farmers and poachers, it’s not a sight I had ever expected to witness. Yet I was elated to discover there are just as many wild elephants still at large as the 3,500 or so in captivity.

Better still, it’s now illegal to catch a wild elephant or sell ivory in Thailand – both of which carry heavy penalties. At last, something is being done to protect the country’s national animal.

That will be a cause for celebration on the 20th Thai Elephant Day on March 13 2019, which was first set up in 1999 to help promote public participation in elephant preservation.

Lured by Audley Travel’s new tailor-made tour of such unique wildlife encounters, as well as trekking to remote hill tribes, our group of six had been enriched by a week of adventure.

A steep hike through dense and steamy forest following a machete-wielding youth was rewarded by the privilege of sharing lunch with members of the gentle Lahu tribe, with whom we sat cross-legged on the bamboo floor of a longhouse on stilts.

Other activities included cycling past rice paddies to the sparkling White Temple in Chiang Rai (like something out of Narnia) and taking a long-tail boat ride up the Kok River, watched curiously by glimmering golden Buddhas, turquoise kingfishers and waist-deep fishermen throwing nets.

After visiting Chiang Rai’s first elephant sanctuary – which opened in 2016 by Jack Highwood formerly from Kent – we knew a little of what was happening around us.

During our fascinating morning at Elephant Valley Thailand simply observing six rescued elephants (one a landmine victim) that were hoped would eventually be returned to the wild, Jack told us about elephants’ body language and communication signals.

The lesson held us in good stead now as, like a David Attenborough documentary, the tranquil gathering of wild elephants before us had suddenly grown alarmed, trumpeting and flapping ears as the matriarch charged at something lurking in the undergrowth, while the adults huddled protectively around the babies.

I thought they had caught a whiff of our scent, but then the real culprit – a jackal – broke cover, tearing off in a panic to escape. Ten elephants against one – his chances weren’t high.

In a recent tourism initiative started by Thailand’s late King in an effort to save wild elephants, visitors can take a guided safari or hike through the Kui Buri National Park, as well as dine with local residents. This income is welcomed by villagers who then realise the benefits of elephant conservation.

There is a growing backlash against zoo captivity, tourists riding elephants and circus-type performances because of the cruel training methods used. Yet such shows like Phuket’s FantaSea, where elephants perform on stage, sadly still continue.

It’s encouraging that there are now eco-friendly alternatives that don’t only protect wild elephants but the future of an equally endangered traditional rural way of life for the Thai people.

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https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/lifestyle/travel/838664/elephant-encounters-on-thai-trip-of-a-lifetime/

Elephant expert Dhriti Kanta dies at 87


Kolkata: An expert on Indian elephants and celebrated author, Dhriti Kanta Lahiri Choudhury, breathed his last at his south Kolkata residence on Friday morning. He was 87.

“He had been suffering from age-related problems and breathed his last around 7.15am,” said his wife Shila Lahiri Choudhury.

No elephant story was complete without a stop at Lahiri Choudhury’s. He was a rare combination of literary proficiency with a deep understanding of wildlife, which often translated into unparalleled writings, in both English and Bengali.

He was born in 1931 to Dhirendra Kanta and Renuka Devi at Kalipur village in Mymensingh district of Bangladesh. After Partition, his family shifted to Kolkata. Dhriti Kanta was a student of English literature at Presidency College and completed his PhD from the University of Leeds. Later, he became a professor at Rabindra Bharati University.

Dhriti Kanta travelled extensively across the forests of Ass-am, Barak Valley, Bengal, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Uttaranchal, Bandipur and Periyar, gathering experience on elephants and surveying the status and distribution of elephants, man-elephant conflicts and problems of elephants in India.

His books, ‘The Great Indian Elephant Book’ and ‘A Trunk Full of Tales: Seventy Years With The Indian Elephant’, are considered guidebooks on elephants. Dhriti Kanta wrote two Bengali books, ‘Hatir Boi’ and ‘Jiboner Indradhanu’. He also researched on Kolkata’s heritage architecture. In 1977, he became a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s elephant specialist group. He also became a member of the advisory committee of Project Elephant in 2004.

Recalling his association with Dhriti Kanta, former government-registered hunter Ranjit Mukherjee said none of their ventures was complete without his advice. “I, along with my friend Chanchal Sarkar, who was also a government-recognised hunter, met Dhriti Kanta in 1972. In 1974, he gave us the movement map of a rogue elephant at Nagrakata when we had gone to north Bengal to shoot it. At that time, we failed to kill it and could only manage to injure it. On our return, he advised us on ways to successfully shoot a rogue elephant. We used to have several ‘adda’ sessions at his home and discussed mostly elephants and their behaviour,” recalled Mukherjee.

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https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/elephant-expert-dhriti-kanta-dies-at-87/articleshow/68226150.cms

Friday, March 01, 2019

Mahouts In Myanmar Are Younger And Less Experienced, Study Shows


AsianScientist (Mar. 1, 2019) – Scientists in Myanmar and Finland have found that elephant handlers, also known as mahouts, in Myanmar are younger and less experienced than their predecessors. Their findings are published in PLOS One. Asian elephants are endangered, but remarkably, around one third of the remaining 45,000 Asian elephants in the world live in semi-captive conditions, cared for by mahouts. Expert knowledge of mahouts accumulated over many generations is of great importance in handling these giant, wild animals. However, recent societal changes in countries across Asia have affected the traditional mahout system. Myanmar, with the largest semi-captive elephant population of 5,000, is thought of as one of the last strongholds of traditional mahouts. In the present study, researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, together with colleagues at Myanma Timber Enterprise, found that political shifts in Myanmar, coupled with increased urbanization and improved access to technologies, may have impacted the traditional mahout profession. The researchers interviewed experts involved in long term elephant-keeping in Myanmar, as well as over 200 current mahouts employed in the logging industry. They observed that mahouts today are younger, less experienced and spend less time on the job than in the past. The scientists also noted reduced traditional family connections to the profession. “Although almost half of the mahouts we interviewed had a family member also working with elephants, it seems that this link could decline further in the future, with few mahouts wishing their children to follow in their footsteps, especially the younger generation,” said doctoral candidate Ms Jennie Crawley of the University of Turku, the lead author of the study. Less than 20 percent of current mahouts had spent any time as an apprentice before being paired with an elephant, said the researchers. This contrasted with past traditions which required a two-year apprenticeship learning period. One important finding was that despite these changes, a significant majority of experts thought that elephant treatment is better now than in the past. The researchers attributed these improvements to “more techniques and training,” reflecting well on current elephant care in Myanmar. The research team hopes future studies can shed light on where mahout training and support is most needed to strengthen bonds between elephants and their caretakers. “It is really important to conduct further research to understand how [political shifts and urbanization] may impact the welfare of elephants, as frequently changing mahouts with little experience in the profession may increase animal stress and risk of injuries. Our findings already allow managers to take steps to ensure there are no negative impacts for the elephants or for the mahouts working with these huge animals,” said Professor Virpi Lummaa of the University of Turku, a senior scientist involved in the study. The article can be found at: Crawley et al. (2019) Investigating Changes Within the Handling System of the Largest Semi-captive Population of Asian Elephants.

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https://www.asianscientist.com/2019/03/in-the-lab/myanmar-mahouts-elephant-care/

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Myanmar to burn seized wildlife parts at Yangon Zoo


The government will burn elephant tusks and other wildlife parts worth US$1.1 million (K1.66 billion) that were seized over the past year, a senior Forest Department official said.

U Win Naing Thaw, director of Nature and Wildlife Conservation at the department, said the parts will be burned at Yangon Zoo on Sunday.

“Besides elephant parts, there are other animal parts such as horns,” he said, adding that together they weigh more than 700 kilogrammes.

There is especially high demand in Myanmar’s illegal wildlife trade for elephants, turtles, snakes, pangolins and bears.

The burning of the parts is aimed at raising public awareness of the damage wrought by the illegal wildlife trade on the environment and animals.

“I regret the burning of the wildlife parts, but I feel sorrier for the live animals that are traded illegally,” U Win Naing Thaw said. “It is illegal to sell these parts on the black market, so they are being burned.”

Several countries have resorted to burning illegal wildlife parts in the campaign to eliminate the trade.

“The action aims to prevent the making of wildlife cuisine and other things,” said Yangon Region’s Forest Department Director U Thein Toe.

Elephant poaching remains rampant in Bago, Ayeyarwady, and Yangon regions.

Myanmar began burning wildlife parts in Nay Pyi Taw in October 2018, when 277 ivory pieces, 227 elephant bones and other animals, 45 animal hides, 1544 animal horns, 45.5kg of pangolin scales, and 128 other parts were destroyed.

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Poachers hunted after elephant killed in Cambodian wildlife reserve


MONDULKIRI provincial authorities are hunting poachers who shot an elephant for its tusks
near Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary.

Cambodia Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said on Tuesday that park
rangers from the provincial environment department found the elephant in a cashew plantation. It had been shot about ten days ago.

He said the elephant was 2.70 metres tall, 4.50 metres long and weighed about two tonnes.
“Examination of the elephant’s body showed it was shot for its ivory,” he said. “The tusks
were missing and its tail was cut o. There was a gunshot wound on the elephant’s body.

“We are investigating the case, but it was shot using a home-made poisoned bullet,” Pheaktra added. “There was a hole near its right eye that we assumed was a gunshot wound.”

Din Bunthoeun, deputy director of the provincial Environment Department, said department
officials were trying to nd the killers but have no suspects.

The elephant has been buried, but its skeleton will be put on display later for scientic research on the diverse lives of elephants in Cambodia.

In the past three years, three elephants have been shot dead or died of old age. A baby elephant was found dead after being trapped by hunters in the sanctuary last year.

“We condemn this illegal shooting for ivory, and the authorities are investigating to arrest
those responsible,” Pheaktra said.

The Environment Ministry is cooperating with partners on long-term planning for conservation of the forest and protected areas for elephants using law enforcement, and by raising public awareness.

“The ministry calls on all people to join in protecting and conserving elephants in Cambodia,” Pheaktra said.

In the protected area in Mondulkiri province, there are an estimated 120 to 170 elephants.

Cambodia has about 500 elephants living in rainforests, especially in the northeast and Cardamom Mountains. –

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https://www.pressreader.com/myanmar/the-myanmar-times/20190228/281767040515264

Asian elephants may lose up to 42 percent of suitable habitats in India and Nepal by 2070


Protecting and expanding suitable habitats for wildlife is key to the conservation of endangered species, but owing to climate and land use change the ideal habitats of today may not be fitting in 30 or 50 years. An international team of scientists therefore predicted range shifts of Asian elephants in India and Nepal using species distribution models based on distribution data for the elephants and climate projections. While a few regions in the north and northeast of the subcontinent may provide more suitable habitats in the future, overall a heavy loss is probable in all scenarios. The complex effects of environmental change on the distribution of the elephants is elucidated in a paper published in the journal Diversity and Distributions.

It is well known that climate change, land use change, changes in water cycles, and other influencing factors will cause redistribution of species – directly or indirectly. The details of these processes are very complex, however, as effects of global change is manifested very differently on a local scale. In a massive effort, scientists from Spain, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Italy, and Germany worked together in order to assess the combined effects of human pressures and climate change on Asian elephants' distribution, embedded in the human-dominated landscapes in India and Nepal. "We compiled a large database of more than four thousand elephant occurrences and a large geodatabase of environmental predictor variables covering India and Nepal for this study," explains Surendra P. Goyal (Wildlife Institute of India). In a first step, this allowed the scientists to predict the current spatial distribution of Asian elephants as a function of environmental variables.

"In addition to ongoing human-induced disturbance, especially in the form of land-use change, elephant distribution is influenced by complex local scale interactions among precipitation and temperature, complicated by seasonal monsoon in this region," explains lead author Rajapandian Kanagaraj from the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN) in Madrid (Spain). The scientists estimated that around 256 thousand square kilometres of habitat are suitable for elephants in India and Nepal.

In a second step the effects of climate changes were included into the distribution model to predict future elephant distributions and possible range shifts. Relying on climate and land use data projections for 2050 and 2070, different scenarios were calculated. All scenarios strongly indicate that the interaction between climate change and land use will compound existing threats to the elephant.

"We anticipate that elephant range would likely shift towards higher elevations in the Himalayas, and along a gradient of water availability, instead of a simple unidirectional range shift towards higher elevations and latitudes typically expected when temperature is the principal factor," explains Miguel B. Araújo, expert on climate change and biodiversity at MNCN, Madrid, in whose lab this collaborative study was undertaken.

In a scenario where only climate change is included, the loss of potential habitat is more moderate, but still substantial with a 17.1 percent loss in one scenario in 2070. "The negative effect is especially severe in the human-dominated landscapes in eastern and southern India," say Priya Davidar and Jean-Philippe Puyravaud (Sigur Nature Trust, India). Gain in potential habitat is indicated in northern and northeastern habitats particularly along the valleys in the Himalayan foothills. "Our model projections suggest that the projected future changes in the distribution of elephants in India and Nepal would be driven mainly by changes in the climatic water balance, followed by changes in temperature and other ongoing human-induced disturbance," Kanagaraj and Araújo conclude.

For that reason, building comprehensive and robust spatial models is crucial to assess the impact of environmental changes in wildlife populations. "The database consisted of 115 environmental variables: 60 climatic, 16 human disturbance, 29 forest and vegetation and 10 topographic variables, all at a grid resolution of 1 kilometre," says Thorsten Wiegand, modelling expert from the Environmental Research Centre (UFZ), Leipzig. Occurrence data relied on 4,626 elephant sightings between 1990 and 2017, with the vast majority of sightings after 2002.

"The art of modelling here was distilling the most biologically plausible environmental predictors and eliminating redundant correlations," Stephanie Kramer-Schadt, head of the department of Ecological Dynamics at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), explains the methods. The team calculated and tested several models which can forecast the distribution only from the remaining nine environmental variables.

"In the end we have to acknowledge that are dealing with models of distribution and environmental change," Kramer-Schadt adds. This approach enabled the team to develop highly probable scenarios for range shifts of the elephants under global change, but the predictions are always connected with a level of uncertainty.

The results of this comprehensive study nevertheless have important implications concerning conservation efforts as the suitability maps and future projections can be effectively used to identify critical habitat areas that require immediate conservation attempts. Furthermore the projections can inspire adjustments to current habitat protection strategies.

A supplementary analysis highlighted the importance of connected habitats: "The model only predicts the suitability of a 1 km2 grid cell without accounting for the movement capacity of elephants and their home range sizes, so we added the core range analysis to identify high suitability areas larger than the size of two average home ranges and an analysis of the connectivity of core areas that considers the maximal displacement capacity of elephants," says Kanagaraj.

"The results underline the pressure that is expected on the habitats on southern and eastern India as it is where large core areas can be found," says Surendra P. Goyal. Further, the analysis suggests that the fragmented core areas that are located along the foothills forests and floodplains of the Himalaya could be connected by a mixture of poor‐ and high‐quality habitat that should form specific targets for management. These results provide a first assessment of areas that could provide connectivity among core areas.

"We are certain that conservation of remaining habitat will always remain the centrepiece of biodiversity conservation," the team states. "Our study provides a first assessment on the effect of climate change on the distribution of the Asian elephant in its major habitats in India and Nepal, which could help other assessments over its entire range across South and South‐East Asia, and be useful for developing management plans for wildlife conservation under the aegis of climate change."

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Myanmar to open elephant museum in Yangon


YANGON, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar will soon open a first elephant museum in Myanmar's Yangon next month, according to the forest department Wednesday.

Funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the elephant museum will be opened as a part of the Natural History Museum in Yangon Zoological Garden compound on Sunday to commemorate World Wildlife Day.

The museum, which will be operated by the Forest Department, aims to raise people's awareness of the protection and conservation of wildlife.

Educational materials and messages will be showcased in both Myanmar and English language for the public to stress the importance of elephants, threats they are facing and how to take measures to protect the country's wild and domesticated elephants.

At present, there are about 1,500 wild elephants and 5,000 domesticated ones in the country.

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo announces death of elderly Asian elephant


One of Australia’s oldest elephants has died at Dubbo’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo, aged 62.

The elderly Asian female elephant arrived at the zoo more than 10 years ago from Stardust Circus.

The zoo made the announcement on Tuesday, saying the “popular animal among staff and guests alike” would be sadly missed.

Gigi had recently been in palliative care after being managed for several years with a number of age-related illnesses, the zoo reported.

Recently her health deteriorated and she stopped responding to treatments.

Despite every effort to provide her with relief and care, Gigi’s health declined significantly, and it was apparent she was in increased pain and discomfort.

The decision was made to end her pain and she was euthanised, the zoo reported.

Gigi was part of the zoo’s special care program for aged elephants to ensure quality of life in her twilight years.

“The zoo’s veterinary team along with zookeepers had been monitoring and responding to Gigi’s health for some time due to her advanced age,” director Steve Hinks said.

Gigi arrived at the zoo in January 2008 with Stardust Circus companion Arna.

Arna died in 2012.

Gigi’s elderly companion Burma, 64, was supportive towards her companion during her final days and will be given time to grieve the loss, the zoo reported.

Burma is now the only aged elephant at the zoo, and keepers are closely monitoring her well-being and providing her with opportunity to socialise with the zoo’s other elephants through fence contact as she deals with her loss.

“Unfortunately this is part of the cycle of life and comes with the responsibility of caring for wildlife,” Mr Hinks said.

“It’s a very trying and sad time for everyone, particularly those who worked closely with Gigi.

“She was part of our zoo family and to lose her is absolutely heartbreaking for our team.”

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Shan Yoma elephant camp plans more activities for visitors


The Shan Yoma elephant camp located near the Nampantant Village in Kalaw Township is planning to add more activities for visitors, such as a hiking trip to a nearby waterfall and a motorcycle trip to a lake in the vicinity.

“Preparations are under way to offer elephant rides in the forest and other services to foreign and domestic visitors. Officials from the resort are planning more facilities and activities such as a hiking trip to the Buuchaungwaphyar waterfall, which is two miles away from the resort, elephant-ride tour, and a motorcycle trip to the waterfall and lake. The resort is also expanding accommodation facilities and plans to sell souvenirs,” said U Sai Than Naing, in-charge of the elephant resort.

“At present, visitors can ride elephants, watch and help them bathe, and observe the daily life of elephants and the mahouts and the village of the mahouts. They also get a chance to take photos and videos with the elephants, relax, and take a bath at the waterfall and lake,” said U Sai Than Naing.

The Shan Yoma elephant resort was opened on 13 February last year. The resort has two twin elephants, aged a year and a half, four female elephants and two male elephants, and it is making efforts to increase the number of elephants.

—(Chan Thar- Meiktila) (Translated by La Wonn)







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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Thai farmers’ joy: elephant damage now covered | #AsiaNewsNetwork


Bangkok (The Nation) - The Thai Cabinet has given its approval for farmers’ insurance to include intrusion by wild elephants that destroys their wet-season rice and maize.

A budget of Bt1.74 billion has been set aside in 2019 to protect farmers against damage to their rice and a further Bt212.8 million for damage to their maize grain, which the farmers grow commercially for livestock animals' feed industry, said Natthaporn Chatusripitak, spokesman for the deputy prime minister in charge of the economy.

The insurance schemes have also been set up to provide two tiers of coverage, tier 1 for a basic insurance policy and tier 2 for a more comprehensive option, which caters both to those willing to pay more for greater protection and to those taking out insurance for the first time.

Besides the usual cover for flood, drought, storms/typhoons, cold weather/frost, and fire, the insurance schemes would now also cover damages caused by wild elephants’ intrusion, Natthaporn said.

Wild elephants have been a menace for decades to people living near forest zones across Thailand, with numerous cases of invasion of farms and houses.

The issue of wild elephants intruding on to farmland has been severe in recent years.

Many cases have made headlines, including one incident in Nakhon Si Thammarat province last month, in which 7-8 wild elephants from Khao Luang forest destroyed orchards in tambon Kha Noi, Sichon district for several days, prompting villagers to call for help from the authorities. The villagers claimed two elephants from the same herd had also been responsible for damaging property three years ago.

In November last year, 40 wild elephants intruded 100 rai (16 hectares) of farmland in Loei’s Phu Luang district and destroyed rice, corn and tapioca, as well as a hut and water containers. The attack prompted Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary officials and villagers to set up 15-strong teams to work in shifts around the clock to drive away the elephants. They also advised people not to go out at night due to the risk of elephant attacks.

Earlier last year, wild elephants in Chanthaburi also destroyed 30 durian trees, resulting in damage estimated at Bt400,000.

Increasing concern over the severity of the problem saw the matter being escalated and prompted the government’s inclusion of such a threat in the crop insurance.

It also led to a collaboration between WWF-Thailand and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), resulting in officials fitting six specially made collars to six elephants at Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary in Chachoengsao province, since last December 22. The Sanctuary was designated a “red” area, indicating that it was a high human/elephant conflict zone and merited extra attention, in order to reduce the risk of human-elephant conflicts.

DNP deputy director-general Pinsak Suraswadi said during the project launch last month that the collars, which were imported from South Africa, would be used to study the movement of the pachyderms and help resolve the issue of them destroying crops.

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Mahout study laments slump in knowledge transfer


YANGON — The care of working elephants in Myanmar has been affected by a decline in the transfers of knowledge that mahouts have accumulated over generations, researchers have found.

Mahouts in Myanmar are younger and less experienced than in the past, which has implications for elephants under their care, researcher said in a study reported by the ScienceDaily.com website on February 11.

The study, Investigating changes within the handling system of the largest semi-captive population of Asian elephants, was conducted by researchers at the University of Turku, Finland, and veterinarians at Myanma Timber Enterprise.

The researchers found that the average age of mahouts in Myanmar is 22 years, they have an average of three years’ experience working with elephants and they are changing elephants yearly, preventing the development of long-term bonds between the animals and their handlers.

Previously, elephant-keeping skills were accumulated over a lifetime of working with the same animal before being passed on to the younger generation.

“Expert knowledge of mahouts accumulated over many generations is of great importance in handling these giant, essentially wild animals,” ScienceDaily reported, citing the study.

However, the knowledge transfer has been threatened by changes affecting the traditional mahout system in Asia, in which about one-third of the remaining 45,000 Asian elephants live in semi-captive conditions and are cared for by mahouts.

Myanmar, with the largest semi-captive elephant population of 5,000, had been thought to be one of the last strongholds of traditional mahouts and their expert knowledge.

The study involved interviews with long-term specialists in elephant-keeping and more than 200 mahouts working in the logging industry. It revealed profound changes in the traditional mahout profession in Myanmar.

As well as mahouts being younger, less experienced and spending less time in the job than in the past, the study also revealed a reduced traditional family connection to the profession.

"Although almost half of the mahouts we interviewed had a family member also working with elephants, it seems that this link could decline further in the future, with few mahouts wishing their children to follow in their footsteps, especially the younger generation," said Ms Jennie Crawly, a PhD candidate and the lead author of the study.

"It is really important to conduct further research to understand how these changes may impact the welfare of elephants, as frequently changing mahouts with little experience in the profession may increase animal stress and risk of injuries,” said Professor Virpi Lummaa, the senior scientist involved in the study.

The study also found that, despite the changes, a significant majority of specialists believed that the treatment of elephants in Myanmar was better than in the past. It said many improvements could be attributed to “more techniques and training” that reflected positively on elephant care in Myanmar.

The researchers hope that future studies can reveal which parts of the country are most affected and identify where mahout training and support is most needed.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Manchaung Elephant camp to open near Shwesettaw Pagoda


MAGWAY-With intention to attract foreign tourists, Manchaung Elephant Camp will be opened in conjunction with the Shwesettaw Pagoda festival on February 9th, says Myint Zaw, Natural Resources Minister from Magway Region Government Committee.

The Elephant camp is located near Shwesettaw Pagoda in Magway region and there will be 15 elephants while over 70% of construction work had been reportedly completed.

The camp aims to attract not only global tourists but also local visitors during the Shwesettaw Pagoda festival.

“The visitors can closely observe the nature of elephants and how the elephants are being trained and practiced by their attendants. Moreover, the visitors can see the scenery of the mountains and streams,” said Myint Zaw.

“There will be 15 elephants in the camp. Among them, 12 elephants are grown enough to ride. We are going to give rest for elder elephant, mother/infant pair and a pregnant elephant. The aim of the camp is elephant conservation based tourism. Magway Region Government Committee had built the elephant camp aiming to build relationship between elephants and people as well as creating job opportunities for the locals,” said Aung Ko Ko Htet, second-in charge of the camp.

He added that even though there was no special guest house ready for foreigners, if they would visit the camp right after opening, there are plans to arrange for convenient accommodations.

At present, temporary guest houses are being built in the camp and the entrance fee will be between Ks1,000 per person and Ks 5,000 per person. An elephant ride will last for one trip around the camp.

Pilgrims coming to the Shwesettaw Pagoda will have to visit the elephant camps withthe aim to ride the elephants.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

New elephant camp will be opened in Magway


A new elephant camp will be opened in Myanmar's Magway region next month as a wildlife-based tourist destination and a wildlife conservation centre, Xinhua reported quoting state media.

The 3.24-hectare elephant camp to be inaugurated on Feb. 9 will feature bungalows, mess halls, elephant houses plus a 283-hectare grazing ground and a 48.6-hectare vacant and virgin land to build a public place and grow trees.

Visitors will be able to ride elephants and rest at the camp which will have 11 bungalows equipped with all necessary facilities and a food stall run by the camp staff.

So far, the camp has seven elephants and the number is set to increase to 15 later.

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Monday, December 31, 2018

Authorities arrest suspected illegal wildlife trader


Law enforcement officers on Sunday arrested a man suspected to be an illegal wildlife trader and seized an assortment of wildlife parts found in his possession.

The suspect was arrested on the Mandalay-Lashio road in Patheingyi township in Mandalay Region, according to the Forest Department.

Seized from the suspect were 10 golden deer horns and tortoise chest shells, among others, the department said.

In Yangon Region, the government will burn wildlife parts seized from poachers on March 3 to mark World Wildlife Day, said U Win Naing Thaw, director of the department’s Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division.

During a similar event in Nay Pyi Taw on October 4, the government incinerated US$1.3 million (K1.3 billion) worth of wildlife parts, including 277 elephant tusks, 5 elephant bones, 222 tiger and other wild cat bones, 45 skins, 1544 horns, 45 kilogrammes of pangolin scales, and 128 tortoise shells.

The authorities set aside some wildlife parts, such as elephant tusks, animal horns, skins and bones, for display at an elephant museum to raise public awareness about the importance of protecting biodiversity and fighting the illegal trade in wild animals, plants and flowers, according to the department.

The illegal trade in wildlife and parts is estimated to be worth over US$40 billion a year globally. In Myanmar, it is worth an estimated US$3 million.

U Win Naing Thaw said the burning of wildlife parts in Yangon aims to send a strong message to illegal wildlife traders that the government is serious about ending the illicit trade.

“This will serve to raise awareness about the need to reduce illegal trading and the killing of wildlife,” U Win Naing Thaw said, adding that the campaign will also target accessories and medicine made from illegal wildlife parts.

As of last month, 17 wild elephants had been killed and 42 perpetrators arrested and charged with the killings this year.

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Authorities take aim at illegal wildlife trade


Myanmar's rich biodiversity continues to be damaged by illegal trade and the killing of elephants and other wild animals.

Of the over 20 wild elephants that died from January through September, 17 were killed by poachers, according to the Forest Department.

More than 46 elephants were slaughtered last year, and poachers killed 84 of the 165 wild elephants that died from 2010 to 2017, it said.

Most of the poaching occurred in Ayeyarwady and Yangon regions. In Ayeyarwady, poachers killed five of the seven wild elephants that died, while in Yangon, they killed three of the four wild elephants that died from January to September.

The wild elephants were killed for their ivory, teeth, skin and trunks, said wildlife conservation activists.

  U Win Naing Thaw, director of the department’s Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division, said that poaching of elephants has declined slightly.

“This year, there were 17 poaching cases and arrests of 42 people for killing wild elephants and illegal trade of elephant parts,” he said.

“Illegal trading is less than in previous years, as people are more aware of the problem and are cooperating more,” said U Win Naing Thaw.

There are an estimated 1400 to 2000 elephants in the country, but the numbers could be lower, according to elephant conservation groups.

Local and foreign conservationists have conducted education programmes to raise awareness of the problem.

Some laws were amended this year in an effort to reduce elephant poaching and illicit wildlife trade.

The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (bicameral legislature) enacted the amended 1992 Forestry Law on September 20, and the Protection of Biodiversity and Conservation Areas Law replaced the 1994 Protection of Wildlife and Conservation of Natural Areas Law on May 21.

The department expressed confidence that the new laws will reduce the illegal wildlife trade, especially in Yangon.

The Yangon City Development Committee has carried out an education campaign to raise awareness about the illegal wildlife and products trade in the city’s markets.

Aside from elephants, other animal parts traded in the illicit business include those from tigers, bears, pangolins, rhinos, mountain goats, Indian pied hornbills, gaurs, leopards, tortoises and snakes.

To demonstrate their seriousness about the campaign against the illegal trade, the government incinerated ivory and other wildlife parts worth US$1.3 million in Nay Pyi Taw in October.

In the first action of its kind for Myanmar, the government destroyed 277 pieces of ivory, 227 elephant and animal bones, 45 animal skins, 1544 animal horns, 45.5 kilogrammes of pangolin scales and 128 parts of other animals.

What effect these actions will have on the illegal wildlife trade remains to be seen, according to experts.

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Sunday, December 09, 2018

Elephants now in demand for their skin


Recent times have seen the emergence of a dangerous trend that would adversely affect elephant populations everywhere. This is the growing demand for the skins of elephants, especially, of the Asian elephant.

A study, started by an England-based non-governmental organisation called the Elephant Family, has made some startling revelations in this respect. They have carried out a detailed survey of the illegal elephant skin trade that has been in operation since 2014, the results of which are now documented in a publication called ‘Skinned - The growing appetite for Asian elephants’.

The trade in elephant skin products seems to have started in about 2006 in Myanmar, and has now attained a steady annual growth. The skin of an elephant is used to manufacture beads, powdered skin, pieces of treated skin, etc. The powder is used in Chinese-based traditional medicine and pharmaceutical processes which sell under Elephant Skin Powder. Initially, powdered elephant skin was sold as an ingredient in traditional medicine. Thereafter, a new trend emerged where dried elephant skin was carved and polished into prayer beads and other Chinese collectibles with traders extolling the qualities of the blood red hue in the translucent subcutaneous layers.

Elephants are killed, and the skin removed in strips or in large square chunks. Whatever the method used, a large part of the skin not suitable for processing, is left and wasted. There seems to be no justification for killing an elephant for a small part of its skin.

The skin pachydera of an elephant, is 1.9 - 3.2 cm thick. It is thickest on the hind limbs and hindquarters, thinner on the forelimbs and shoulders, and is thinnest on the inside of the ears and around the mouth and anus. The skin though thick is sensitive. The colour of the skin is dark greyish black over most of the body but lighter on the head, trunk and ears. Though the elephant’s skin seems to be tough, it is sensitive in certain areas and susceptible to the ravages of heat and insect pests. Since the skin of an elephant is thick it cannot cool its body easily The warm blood cools as it circulates through the veins in the ear, due to the thin layer of skin that covers the ear. The cooled blood then circulates back into the body, helping reduce the overall body temperature of the elephant. Even though the Asian is the preferred elephant species, skin from the African species is also used. If the skin is needed from a particular part of the body, then the elephant killings will unnecessarily destroy more elephants than are actually needed for the illegal trade.

There is little doubt that the skin trade is alive and is a developing threat to Asian elephants across their range. The Asian elephant is found in the wild in thirteen range states. Their total number has been estimated at between 35,000 and 45,000. In the last century an estimated 90 percent population loss was recorded across their 13 range state, with habitat loss being the main threat. Over 15,000 Asian elephants are held in captivity around the world in zoos, entertainment centres, private ownership and trekking camps.

History has shown that poaching and wildlife trafficking spreads rapidly across countries and continents. The growing number of skin poaching incidents in Myanmar, and the spread of trade across Myanmar, Laos and China shows that this is already happening. Traffickers are actively developing new ways to market elephant skin products, and are selling them to apparently willing customers.

However, the wild elephants in Sri Lanka are not at risk of the demand for elephant skins for the production of ornaments and medicinal powders. The skin trade is in Myanmar where there are plenty of wild elephants. Even so we must be vigilant to ensure that no elephants are poached for the skin trade in the future.

The populations of both, the African and Asian species of elephants are threatened due to conflicts with people, habitat loss and poaching for their ivory. However, the Asian species are also threatened by the illicit live trade for the entertainment industry and the recent poaching for the illegal trade in their skins. The entertainment industry consists mainly of circuses, where elephants are a great attraction.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) through the Convention in Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has recommended that, “All elephant range states have in place legislative, regulatory, enforcement, or other measures to prevent the illegal trade in live elephants”.

Videos posted on marketing sites show images of backyards in Myanmar and Laos being used by traders to carve up chunks of elephant skin, remove the coarse hair with blow-torches and dry it in ovens before grinding it into a fine powder.

The most effective way in which this trade could at least be reduced, if not stopped altogether, is for people not to purchase elephant skin products or ivory products.

However, this would not be a solution if man’s greed to have these items continue. If on the other hand, there is no market or demand for elephant products the elephant will have only an aesthetic value and not a commercial value.

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Monday, December 03, 2018

Yangon Strives to Rid City of Illegal Wildlife Trade


The Yangon Region Forest Department is working with international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) to designate Yangon as the first city in Southeast Asia free of the illegal wildlife trade. Director U Thein Toe recently sat down with The Irrawaddy’s Thazin Hlaing to discuss what steps the department was taking to fight the illegal wildlife trade in Myanmar’s commercial capital.

The Forest Department has educated souvenir shops about preventing wildlife trade in Yangon. Has it taken action against any violators?

We haven’t for the time being. But to prevent elephant poaching, we are cooperating with partner INGOs such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Society Organization as well as the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, Forestry Police and Myanmar Police Force. Combined teams of those officials including ward and village administrators conduct regular patrols in the forests. As the Protection of Biodiversity and Conservation Areas Law has been enacted, we have plans to make Yangon free of the illegal wildlife trade.

Is Yangon the first in Myanmar to declare a no-illegal wildlife trade zone?

We have been working on it. Other cities will also follow suit. The law is in effect across the country.

What will the difficulties be? Do you think the idea is feasible?

Yangon is the city that receives the most international travelers to Myanmar. Travelers come to Yangon both by air and by ship. So there is more illegal wildlife trade compared to other cities. We want to ban the making of souvenirs and handicrafts with animal parts that are smuggled into Yangon from various parts of the country.

Since last year, we have educated souvenir shops that usually sell souvenirs made of animal parts at Bogyoke Market as well as Shwedagon Pagoda to stop selling them. And we have also done the same with restaurants that sell wildlife meat. And we assume we have educated them enough to stop selling them. And as a new law has been enacted, we have issued a warning that we will take harsh action against violations.

What action will be taken?

The law sets a minimum imprisonment of three years and a maximum imprisonment of 10 years for hunting and illegally trading wildlife protected under by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which Myanmar is a signatory. So if someone is found guilty, he will be imprisoned.

Fines can also be imposed. But it depends on the thinking and decision of the judge. The advantage of this law is that it fully protects endangered wildlife species that are listed by CITES.

What are the fully protected wildlife species?

For example, elephants, tigers, bears and pangolins. Among bird species, peacocks and hornbills are fully protected. And among reptiles, pythons and so on are fully protected.

How many souvenir shops and restaurants sell wildlife parts and meat in Yangon?

Souvenir shops at Shwedagon Pagoda and Bogyoke Market sell souvenirs made of wildlife parts, and the rest are restaurants. There are a certain number of them in town. I don’t want to disclose details.

What things are found most on the market?

Barking deer, sambar and snake meat are usually eaten. And lucky charms and handicrafts made of elephant tusks, tiger teeth and boar tusks are sold. Selling those things amounts to illegal wildlife trade. Even toys made of animal parts are part of the illegal wildlife trade.

What is the cause of the extinction of wildlife and flora?
The main cause is humans. Because they are rare things, rich foreigners buy them at high prices to consume or make medicine and cosmetics from them. So they are hunted to the brink of extinction.

Previously, wild elephants were poached for their tusks. But now they are hunted also for their trunks, hide and meat. So every part of an elephant is sold on the illegal market now. This is due to the demand from the neighboring country [China].

Are all animal parts sold on the market in Yangon illegal? Is some part of the business legal?

There is a law regarding this. Some people have private elephants. If those elephants die of disease or old age, the owners have to inform the nearest forest department, whose vet will check the cause of death and issue a death certificate along with a documentary photo. Owners are allowed to keep the parts from their dead elephants in that case.

Some ethnic people wear wildlife parts as ornaments as a part of their traditional garb. In that case, they can also wear them by registering them. If people’s ancestors have registered their own wildlife, the following generations have the right to own their parts. But trading them to a third party is not allowed.

So you mean all the things that are not registered with the government are illegal?

Yes they are.

So is anything officially registered in Yangon?

There are hardly any privately owned elephants in Yangon. And ethnic people almost never wear their traditional garb in Yangon. So nothing is registered.

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Kennedy Elephant Camp to be established in Kachin State


“The aim of opening the elephant camp here is to ignite love for the natural environment, to be more intimate with elephants, to cherish elephants more and let people know more about elephants such as the way they live as well as encourage protecting nature. We are preparing to open up Kennedy Elephant Camp before Christmas,” said Toe Chit Hmu Paing, an in-charge of the elephant camp.

The Kennedy Elephant Camp will be located in Khing Kame-Painpi Road (locally known as nine mile Kyauk Talone), 9 miles away from Kalay in the Sagaing Region.

“Visitors can feed elephants and ride on them. There will be places for rest and recreation as well as restaurants. There is a pool built aside the river so that visitors can play in that pool. The main attraction of the camp is the beautiful scenery such as Rope Bridge, the river and the Kennedy Valley,” continued Toe Chit Hmu Paing. Entrance fees, cost of elephant rides and other charges will be set soon. There are also plans to attract visitors in the coming rainy season.

The camp is located on the way to Kennedy Mountain. Above the elephant camp lies Painpi Village which means tourists can visit there as well as other nearby Chin villages.

The incumbent government has banned timber extraction and as a result of this ban, elephant camps under the management of Myanma Timber Enterprise have been and will be turned into elephant-based tourism centres to provide a source of income for “mahouts” - elephant handlers, as well as work for the elephants.

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Elephant camp to be built near popular pagoda in Magwe


A Conservation-based elephant tourism project will be set up near Mann Shwe Set Taw (The Golden Footprints) pagoda in Magwe Region, U Myint Zaw, regional minister of Resources, Environment, Electricity and Energy, said.

The camp, the first of its kind in Magwe, is tentatively set to open by February 13, in conjunction with the Mann Shwe Set Taw pagoda festival, U Myint Zaw said.

“We’re building it with the region’s money after obtaining permission from the Myanmar government. We hope to have it running in time for the festival,” he said.

Mann Creek will run through part of the elephant camp, which is being built near Thanpayar Gai village on the road to the pagoda.

It will be built on an estimated 48.5 hectares of land, U Myint Sein, head of Magwe’s Hotels and Tourism Department, said.

“We will plant perennial plants and hardwood trees on 24 hectares in the camp, and we will negotiate for 283 hectares of land outside of Padaung-Pyawbwe reserve for use as pasture,” U Myint Sein said.

The government is trying to develop nature-based tourism to boost the area’s economy, said U Myint Zaw.

“If we can offer tourists a unique experience combining culture, nature and elephants, this area could become famous throughout the country,” U Myint Sein said.

Magwe has 204 elephants used in logging, and the government expects good results from the project as activity slows in the industry.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Less than 2,000 elephants survive in Burma


According to official 2018 data from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, there are only 2,000 domestic and wild elephants in Burma. A collapse of the population despite official rhetoric stressing the importance of preservation, and a recent WWF campaign explaining the importance of protecting this species both iconic and playing a unique and therefore key role in its biotope. Illegal ivory trafficking as well as the exploitation of different parts of the animal for alleged therapeutic benefits, and thus the poaching that results, fuel this rapid disappearance. Between 2010 and 2016, at least 116 of these pachyderms were slaughtered outlawed. And in 2017, authorities identify at least 30 animals that are victims of poaching. Daw Thiri Yadanar, a parliamentarian in the upper house, questioned his colleagues about the massacre during a session on November 16, worried about "This illegal ivory trade from Burma to China and Thailand." "If the government can not prevent the illegal trafficking of elephant tusks and other ivory objects, the dignity of our country is lost." she added. In 1940, there were about 10 000 elephants in the present territory of Burma and around 5000 in the 1990s.

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Wild elephant killed with poison arrow in Ayeyarwady – Myanmar Times

He said a combined team of officers from the department, forest police, Elephant Emergency Response Unit and police found the dead elephant, which had been skinned, in Chaung Thar forest.

U Khin Maung Myint said a suspect was taken into custody and is being questioned about the incident.

“We burned the body of the elephant,” he said.

The male elephant was about, had an 3.4 metre girth, and was 2.4 metres tall. Department experts said the animal may have been killed on Saturday.

From January to September, seven wild elephants died in Ayeyarwady, three of them killed by poachers. Seven suspected poachers have been arrested in the region, authorities said.

The killing of wild elephants continues in Ayeyarwady despite patrols by the police, Forest Department and environmental groups.

Asian elephants are listed as endangered and are threatened by habitat loss and degradation, as well as poaching. In Myanmar, 80 percent of elephants are domesticated and only 20pc are living in the wild.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Less than 2,000 elephants survive in Burma


According to official 2018 data from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, there are only 2,000 domestic and wild elephants in Burma. A collapse of the population despite official rhetoric stressing the importance of preservation, and a recent WWF campaign explaining the importance of protecting this species both iconic and playing a unique and therefore key role in its biotope. Illegal ivory trafficking as well as the exploitation of different parts of the animal for alleged therapeutic benefits, and thus the poaching that results, fuel this rapid disappearance. Between 2010 and 2016, at least 116 of these pachyderms were slaughtered outlawed. And in 2017, authorities identify at least 30 animals that are victims of poaching. Daw Thiri Yadanar, a parliamentarian in the upper house, questioned his colleagues about the massacre during a session on November 16, worried about "This illegal ivory trade from Burma to China and Thailand." "If the government can not prevent the illegal trafficking of elephant tusks and other ivory objects, the dignity of our country is lost." she added. In 1940, there were about 10 000 elephants in the present territory of Burma and around 5000 in the 1990s.

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Friday, November 23, 2018

Villagers in Bago make watch-towers to protect paddy fields destroying elephants


Villagers from Bago Region have set up watch-towers this year to protect their paddy crops from destroying wild elephants. Elephants have been entering paddy fields from 16 November, said villagers.

“This year, the number of elephants invading the paddy fields has declined compared to last year. The elephants usually come to feed on paddy crops around midnight. Therefore, we have constructed watch-towers to drive them away. We will finish harvesting paddy by the end of this month,” said U Mya Maung from Milaunggone Village in the Kywepoke Village-tract.

“The officials set up electric fences around fields and conducted awareness training to prevent human-elephant conflicts this year. The government is aware that the number of wild elephants in Myanmar has declined. According to official statistics, Myanmar’s total wild elephant population stands at 1,000 at present. Many elephants are being killed in the Ayeyawady Region as well as in regions near the Bago Yoma. Authorities have asked villagers to inform Nay Pyi Taw directly if they see any elephant hunters,” said a member of a wildlife protection group.

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

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Myanmar's wildlife gets a new champion

(MENAFN - Asia Times) Wildlife conservationists have a new ambassador for fighting poachers and smugglers of endangered species: Aung La Nsang, better known under his mixed martial arts name 'the Burmese Python,' The Irrawaddy reported on November 16.

The 33-year-old fighter and One Championship middleweight and light heavyweight world champion, Aung La Nsang is an ethnic Kachin from northernmost Myanmar. He will now fight for the World Wildlife Fund, and said of his new role: 'The fight to protect wildlife and stop wildlife crime is a fight that is close to my heart.

"Elephants, tigers, pangolins, bears, turtles and Burmese pythons … they should be in the wild, in the forest, the mountains, the ocean, not in the market.'

He also said that huge challenges lie in fighting wildlife crimes as Myanmar borders China, which is home to the world's biggest black market for wildlife trade.

Despite heavy deforestation in recent decades and on ongoing conflict between the Myanmar army and ethic rebels, Kachin State and neighboring Shan State still have abundant wildlife.

The trade in wildlife has been criminalized in Myanmar since 1994, but there have been problems enforcing the law. In 2017, an elephant was killed almost every week, and Myanmar's elephant population is now down to less than 2,000.

Besides killing elephants for ivory, there have been reports of smuggling live elephants. Elephant poaching is rampant, not only in the north, but also in the Yangon, Bago and Ayeyarwady regions.

Tiger bones and tiger skins are for sale openly in Mong La and other towns along the Chinese border which are not controlled by the central government.

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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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https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/saving-myanmars-elephants-from-skin-poaching/10389790

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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