Suspect Arrested in Relation to Elephant Killings in Pegu Division

By Lawi Weng 4 November 2013

RANGOON — Police in Pegu Division’s Daik-U Township said they have arrested a man suspected of involvement in the poaching of several wild elephants in the forests of Pegu mountain range in the past year.

Tin Oo, a police sergeant in Daik-U Township, said a suspect named Kar Zin was arrested last week on accusations of being responsible for the killing of elephants in the forests near Baw Ni village. He added that two local villagers had been brought into to testify as witnesses in the case.

“Some people who are eyewitnesses informed us that he [Kar Zin] was involved in hunting elephant; this is why we detained him,” Tin Oo told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

“We charged him with a criminal charge … of illegal killing of wild animals in the forest. We arrested him in Thaton Township in Mon State. We are still interrogating him about who else is involved in killing elephants,” he said. The suspect Kar Zin is reportedly from Thaton Township and married to a woman from Baw Ni village.

The Irrawaddy first reported on a spate of elephant killings in Pegu mountain range in Daik-U Township on Oct. 21. Reporters found one elephant carcass and local villager Myint Wai, who is fighting to stop the killings, shared photos that showed that about 20 other elephants were killed in the area in the past year or so.

Policeman Tin Oo said authorities were looking for another two suspects involved in elephant poaching. He added that police had opened an investigation after the head of the Daik-U Township Forest Department filed a complained at the local court.

“As we know, Kar Zin and other two persons are involved in killing elephants. But, we do not know the two other persons’ names yet, as we are still interrogating him,” he said. Tin Oo said it was too early to comment on police findings about the illegal wildlife trade in elephant tusks and skin, which fetch high prices on the Asian black market.

The Burma Army and police launched an operation last week at Baw Ni village in order to investigate the elephant slaughter and catch the poachers.

Local hunters have started killing Asian elephant in the forests of Pegu Mountain near Baw Ni village since 2010, according to Myint Wai, a villager who has been keeping track of the elephant killings. When the number of killings started to suddenly rise this year to about 20 deaths, he began to call attention to the situation by contacting the media and lawmakers.

“I feel a lot of pity [for elephants] when I saw the dead elephants as I am a Buddhist. They did not make any problem for people, but a group of people tried to kill them. This is why I wanted to find justice in order to stop the killing,” he said.

A Daik-U Township policeman, however, scolded him after he informed reporters about the killings. “He called me at 11 pm and yelled at me, asking why I gave information to media and he even blamed me for giving the wrong information,” said Myint Wai.

According to local villagers, there are about 150 wild elephants in Pegu mountain range, but their numbers have fallen sharply in recent years due to illegal poaching and logging of their forest habitat.

Villagers said there are different groups of elephant hunters who use a waterway at the Baw Ni dam to carry the elephant skins by boats after killing the animals. Myint Wai has said that hunters could earn more than US$10,000 from the sale of the skin of a dead elephant. The ivory tusks, which are highly prized in Asia, are likely to fetch far higher prices.