Crackdown on Illegal Wildlife Trade Focuses on Yangon

By Thazin Hlaing 9 October 2018

YANGON — The Yangon regional government will take a tough line on the illegal wildlife trade including the selling of wildlife curries at restaurants, said U Thein Toe, director of the Yangon Region Forest Department.

The forest department announced its plan to end illegal wildlife trade in the commercial capital in the last week of September, said U Thein Toe, adding that his department has “sufficiently” educated shops across the region about the negative impact of the illegal wildlife trade.

The announcement came 11 months after the launch of a six-month nationwide campaign “Voices for MoMos” against the increased poaching of wild elephants in Myanmar.

“Yangon is the main city and receives the most international travelers [in Myanmar]. Travelers come to Yangon both by air and by ship, so the illegal trade is higher compared to other cities,” U Thein Toe told The Irrawaddy.

Handicrafts made from elephant skin and parts such as tails and tusks are sold in Yangon, Mandalay and at Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Mon State, while most of them are smuggled into China and thriving wildlife markets in the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar converge.

Since last year, the department has been educating staff in souvenir shops at Bogyoke Market, shops at Shwedagon Pagoda, and restaurants that sell wildlife meat, he said.

“Foreigners like things that are normally not listed on a regular menu, so we have warned restaurants that sell wildlife curries,” he said.

Illegal wildlife trading is still rampant in Myanmar though the practice has been criminalized since 1994.

Myanmar’s Parliament passed the Protection of Biodiversity and Conservation Areas Law enacted in May, which prescribes harsh penalties for hunting and illegal wildlife trading as protected under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The law carries a minimum of three to a maximum of ten year’s imprisonment plus a fine.

Christy Williams, the country director of World Wildlife Fund Myanmar said, “We’re glad that Yangon has announced its new step. We are ready to help the government in enforcing the rule of law in the region. The next step is to end wildlife crimes across Myanmar.”

The Myanmar authorities destroyed hundreds of seized elephant tusks, pangolin scales and other animal parts, worth a total of $1.3 million on the black market, last week in the administrative capital Naypyitaw.

Among globally threatened species, those found in Myanmar include the elephant, tiger, dolphin, pangolin, bear, python, turtle, banteng, takin, hairy-nosed otter, and so on.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.