Wild Elephant Found Skinned in Myanmar Forest Reserve; Poachers Flee Scene

By Salai Thant Zin 27 January 2020

PATHEIN, Ayeyarwady Region—Local authorities in Ngapudaw Township, Ayeyarwady Region found a wild elephant poached and skinned with its trunk cut off in Sinma Forest Reserve on Friday.

Officials with the forest department, police and administrative authorities were investigating a report by local residents that wild elephants were running in the forest reserve when they found the dead elephant near the Pathein-Mawtin road.

“It was killed by elephant poachers. They fled from the scene and police are pursuing them,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Tun Shwe, spokesperson for the Ayeyarwady Region Police Force, told The Irrawaddy.

The female pachyderm was around 2.5 m tall, over 2 m long and estimated to be 28 years old. According to the elephant veterinarian of the Forest Department, the elephant was killed by a poisoned arrow.

“Elephant poachers had skinned the elephant and were preparing to take it away,” said U Kyaw Myint Tun, administrator for Ngapudaw’s Tin Chaung Village-Tract. “When they saw us, they left their equipment and ran away. We feel sorry that elephants are being poached despite the fact that we are doing our best to prevent elephant poaching.”

U Kyaw Myint Tun has won an award from State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for his elephant conservation efforts.

Friday’s poaching was the first case in 2020. A total of six wild elephants died last year, two of them from natural causes and four killed by poachers.

In 2018, poachers killed eight elephants in Ayeyarwady Region, a 50 percent decline from 16 in 2017, primarily thanks to collaborative efforts between local authorities, police, civilians and civil society organizations engaged in the conservation of elephants.

In the past, elephants were mainly poached for their tusks but over the past few years they have increasingly been poached for their hides, which are believed to have medicinal properties. Demand for elephant hides has increased and, as with the tusks, the hides are mostly smuggled to China.

Most elephant poaching takes place in Ayeyarwady Region, especially in Pathein, Ngapudaw and Thabaung townships.

Myanmar’s elephant population is now estimated to be between 1,600 and 2,000, a drastic decline from the estimated population of 10,000 in the 1940s, according to the Forest Department. Poaching is the primary driver of this continuing decline.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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