YANGON (8th August, 2017): On World Elephant Day, national and international conservation organisations expressed grave concern about the plight of Myanmar’s declining wild elephant population following a surge in demand for their skin.
“Unlike ivory poaching, which targets tusked males, the sudden increase in the demand for skin means the killing is indiscriminate with mothers and calves found poisoned and skinned. If this continues it could lead to the extinction of wild elephants in Myanmar,” said Nay Myo Shwe, Taninthayi Conservation Programme Coordinator, Fauna & Flora International Myanmar.
Elephants are typically shot with poisoned darts or high velocity rifles, and die a prolonged and painful death before being skinned.
“The skin is traded illegally and turned into gruesome jewellery or consumed in ‘medicines’ that have no proven medical value. Elephant skin and other illegal wildlife trade products are openly sold in popular tourist destinations such as Yangon and Kyaiktiyo. Closing these markets is a key step if we are to ensure the future of Myanmar’s wild elephants,” said Mark Grindley, Manager, Taninthayi Conservation Programme, Fauna & Flora International Myanmar.
Elephant skin has long been part of the illegal wildlife trade but never at these levels.
“At least 30 wild elephants have been poached so far in 2017 with six elephants killed in the last six weeks. This is far above the previous yearly poaching average for Myanmar,” said Aung Myo Chit, Country Coordinator, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
The wild elephant population in Myanmar has plummeted, with estimates at between 1400 and 2000, however numbers could be far lower.
“A few decades ago Myanmar would have had tens of thousands of wild elephants. This decline is of grave concern and we urge people to report any sale of elephant products, or any suspicions of poaching, to the authorities,” said Christy Williams, Country Director, WWF-Myanmar.
Conservation organisations have worked with the Myanmar government to train elephant rangers who are being deployed in key poaching hotspots. In July alone, 45 rangers were trained in specialist techniques, with more trainings scheduled.
The majority of elephant skinning is targeted poaching, but occasionally it is a by-product of conflict between elephants and humans. Events such as ‘crop raiding’ or damage to property has increased as elephant habitat is lost and wild elephants come into increasing contact with people. These events can lead to accidental or deliberate injury to both elephants and humans. Since 2010, government figures record at least 35 human deaths and 95 elephant deaths attributed to poaching and conflict across Myanmar.
A Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan (MECAP) has been developed by the Myanmar government with support from a wide range of local and international organisations. The plan details actions to address the illegal capture, poaching and trade of wild elephants and their parts. It also includes sections on human-elephant conflict, conservation of wild elephants and their habitat, and management of Myanmar’s large numbers of working elephants. The plan is expected to be released in the coming months.
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Notes to editor
Experts available for interview:
- Nay Myo Shwe, Taninthayi Conservation Programme coordinator, Fauna & Flora International Myanmar
- Mark E Grindley, Manager, Tanintharyi Conservation Programme, Fauna & Flora International – Myanmar
- Aung Myo Chit, Country Coordinator, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
- Saw Htoo Tha Po, Senior Technical Coordinator, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) Myanmar
- Christy Williams, Country Director, WWF-Myanmar
Please contact media contacts below to arrange interviews.
About Fauna & Flora International www.fauna-flora.org
FFI protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and take account of human needs. Operating in more than 40 countries worldwide, FFI saves speciaes from extinction and habitats from destruction, while improving the livelihoods of local people. Founded in 1903, FFI is the world’s longest established international conservation body and a registered charity. FFI Myanmar has engaged in elephant conservation in Southern Tanintharyi since 2015, working with the Myanmar Forest Department, international organisations, and local government agencies, CSOs, schools, and Myeik University.
Media contact: Nay Myo Shwe: 09-962285854, 09 770692640
About WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) myanmar.wcs.org
WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom and @WCSMyanmar.
Media contact: Swe Zin Myo Win: 09 7959 56050
About WWF www.wwf.org.mm/en
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. WWF-Myanmar opened in 2014. Its work programmes include wildlife, habitats, green economy, renewal energy, and sustainable business.
WWF stands for the World Wide Fund for Nature (previously known as the World Wildlife Fund)
Media contact: Saw Linn Htet: firstname.lastname@example.org