YANGON — A six-month campaign raising awareness of elephant poaching and wildlife smuggling will launch on Nov. 4 in response to an alarming rate of elephant poaching in Myanmar—one per week since January.
Myanmar’s elephants face extinction if poaching continues at such a rate, said Christy Williams, country director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), at a press conference on the campaign on Wednesday.
The “Voice for MoMos” countrywide campaign will focus mostly in areas close to elephant habitats, and along the routes used to smuggle elephant parts.
Six international wildlife conservation agencies will run the campaign—WWF; Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS); Fauna and Floral International (FFI); Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA); Friends of Wildlife (FoW); and Grow Back for Posterity (GBP)— in cooperation with Myanmar Timber Enterprise and Forestry Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
The number of elephants poached for their hide has increased over the past years, according to the campaign, although the illegal trade for elephant hide has existed in the country for a long time.
The natural resources and conservation ministry reported that 18 wild elephants were poached in Myanmar in 2016 whereas about 30 elephants have been hunted as of Aug. 31 this year—more than one elephant per week.
“The habitat of wild elephants has been increasingly narrowed. Previously, elephants were hunted for their tusks only.
“But now, they are killed for their hide and meat as well. So, the situation is getting worse,” said Dr. Zaw Min Oo, an elephant vet from the Forestry Department.
The elephant population of the country is now estimated to be between 1,400 and 2,000—a significant decrease from about 10,000 in the 1940s, according to the Forestry Department.
“In the past, elephants were only poached for their tusks. And not every male elephant of Asian species has tusks. So the number of elephants poached was low. But now, elephant hide is high in demand, and not just male elephants but also female elephants and calves are targeted now. So, the population of Myanmar’s wild elephants has declined rapidly,” said Christy Williams.
In Myanmar, elephants are hunted with poisoned arrows used along with bows or hunting rifles or percussion firearms used along with poisoned metal balls, according to the WWF. Elephant parts are smuggled into China, Thailand and the Golden Triangle Region.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.