Police Arrest 9 Suspects in Connection with Elephant Poaching

By Salai Thant Zin 9 August 2017

PATHEIN—Police have arrested nine suspects in connection with the hunting of two wild elephants in the Myittayar forest reserve in Irrawaddy Region’s Ngapudaw Township.

“A combined column of the police, forestry departments and administrative authorities of Ngapudaw and Pathein townships combed the forest reserve and arrested nine people with crossbows, poisoned bolts [arrows], and poison bottles,” police lieutenant colonel Khin Maung Latt of the Irrawaddy Region Police Force told The Irrawaddy.

In response to a tip-off from locals, the authorities searched the Myittayar forest reserve near Tin Chaung village tract and found a dead 25-year-old female elephant on August 4, and a 4-year-old female elephant the following day, both shot with 16-cm poisoned bolts.

The Forestry Department then burned the bodies at the scene. From January to June, eight elephants were poached in the Irrawaddy Region; the latest killings have brought the total to 10. All of the elephants were shot with poisoned crossbow bolts, according to the Irrawaddy Region Police Force.

“In the first case, the bolt pierced all the way through the hide. In the second case, the bolt penetrated halfway. The poison seems very strong. Both died within 24 hours of being shot,” said Ko Tun Lay, administrator the Tin Chaung village tract.

“Poachers were waiting for elephants to die to dissect them. But the department personnel got there first,” he added.

Ten crossbows, more than 90 bolts, and poison were seized from the nine suspects, according to the police.

“The arrested parties lived in the forest. Although we are educating locals, they can’t resist the money they get from poaching, so they let the hunters stay with them and act as their guides. It is difficult for us to stop it,” said police lieutenant colonel Khin Maung Latt.

Forest reserves in Pathein, Ngapudaw and Thabaung townships in Pathein District are home to wild elephants.

Poachers take the tusks, hide, flesh, and tails from hunted elephants and sell them to smugglers along the Pathein-Mawtin road. From there, smugglers take the items via the Pathein-Monywa road to Mandalay Region, where they smuggle them into China via the Mandalay-Muse road.

The majority of the elephant poachers have been from Minbu, Ngape, and Sidoktaya townships in Magwe Region, according to the Irrawaddy Region Police Force.

Locals have suggested conducting routine security patrols around the forest and installing inspection gates along the route to prevent poaching.

Last year, poachers killed 13 wild elephants in the region and police arrested hunters in four of the cases. They are still investigating six cases and closed three cases, as they could not identify the poachers.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.