Alleged Elephant Poachers Arrested in Irrawaddy Forest Reserve

By Salai Thant Zin 22 October 2018

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.

Three alleged elephant poachers stand in front of a display of the items seized from them by police in Pathein Township, Irrawaddy Region, on Thursday. / Thalek Kwar Police Station

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.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.