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.
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.