Myanmar to launch elephant conservation project


Pyae Thet Phyo, Myanmar Times

Date Published

Amid a dramatic rise in elephant poaching, the government is stepping up efforts to protect the tusked mammals with a new conservation project expected to be unveiled later this week.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation U Ohn Win said the Myanmar Elephant Conservation Project will legislate against killing elephants, and will also include establishing a registry of both wild and domesticated elephants. 

He added that the project has been drafted with urgency in order to crack down on the increase in elephant killing, and the trade in elephant parts.

U Ohn Win said the project plans should contain the relevant laws which can be used against those involved in the illegal killing of elephants.

In order to undertake long-term conservation, the project will make a list enumerating both wild and domesticated elephants. All elephant owners will be informed and require to register the animals with the ministry, according to U Ohn Win.

The Ministry of Forestry estimates there are about 2000-3000 wild elephants in the country, including in sanctuaries and natural habitats.

The elephant conservation project will also seek to advance research on elephant, human-wildlife conflict caused by territory encroachment and how citizens can contribute to habitat preservation efforts.

At a world wildlife conference in Johannesburg, South Africa last year, countries party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – including Myanmar – agreed to combat elephant poaching and the selling of ivory and elephant organs.

Elephant poachers in Myanmar mostly sell ivory to China and Thailand through illegal channels, with a single tusk bringing in thousands of US dollars. But China, one of the largest markets for elephant ivory, announced a 2017 ban on all ivory trade and processing. The move was welcomed by environmental activists as a key step in curtailing the region’s ivory trade.

According to government records from 2010 to 2016, Myanmar lost a total of 133 elephants – 72 to natural causes and 61 to poachers.