YANGON — At least eight people were detained in separate incidents in Irrawaddy Region, Bago Region and Magwe Region’s Mindon Township on suspicion of involvement in poaching wild elephants and illegally trafficking their parts, according to local sources.
U Myo Tun, a police officer from Mindon Township, told The Irrawaddy that two people had been detained there on May 27 on suspicion of killing a wild elephant.
“We are conducting an investigation into the pair, and cannot provide any more details,” U Myo Tun said, adding that discussing the case at this point could put the investigation in jeopardy.
“We plan to make more arrests; therefore, we cannot provide detailed information,” he said.
Police in Bago Region’s Daik-U Township, meanwhile, said they had detained three fugitives in relation to a separate killing of a wild elephant last year.
According to a police report, the poachers planned to sell 40 viss of elephant hide to a client in Rangoon at a price of 30,000 kyats (US$22) per viss. A viss is a traditional Burmese unit of measurement equivalent to 1.6 kg or 3.6 lb.
Elephant are killed on a near monthly basis in Bago and Irrawaddy regions despite stepped up efforts to crack down on poachers. Hunters skin the elephants and abandon the carcasses. In most cases they elude capture.
U Kyaw Myint Tun, a police officer from Ngapudaw Township in Irrawaddy Region said it was difficult to catch the poachers.
“They use homemade guns made from small pipes. They bring gunpowder with them, along with chemicals and poison. They mix it all together when they are in the jungle. The shoot the elephants using the homemade guns [and poison],” he said.
He said that the poachers are well networked, with many traveling from different township to hunt wild elephant in Ngapudaw.
Most hunters hide their guns, and it is difficult to distinguish the poachers from other hunters, he said. They pretend to pretend to be local people when police confront them in the jungle, he said.
To transport the illegal parts, hunters use motorbikes instead of cars to avoid police, he said.
Myanmar adopted a new law this month to protect wildlife. Wildlife groups in the country are hopeful that the law will improve the situation facing wildlife in the country, especially elephants. The old law did not recognize elephants used for logging as wildlife. However, the new law protects all types of elephants.
Rakhine State and Bago and Irrawaddy regions are all home to wild elephant habitats. Many people clear forests to farm, encroaching on wild elephants’ habitats. Poachers export the parts of poached elephants mainly to China.
Police in Ngwe Saung Township, Irrawaddy Region, reported on May 28 that they had detained six other men accused of killing a wild elephant.