In April 2015, a group of 10 lost elephants found their way to the Nay Pyi Taw-Yangon highway.
Asian elephants are classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which is the world’s largest global environmental organisation. The IUCN has estimated that only 4000 to 5000 wild elephants continue to roam Myanmar.
In response to reports of human-elephant conflict across Myanmar, the forestry department held a workshop with international conservation groups on July 8 to review an action plan.
Conflict between elephants and people in Myanmar is growing as the pachyderms face shrinking habitats. Photo: Nick Baker / The Myanmar Times
Workshop participants – including co-hosts WWF-Myanmar, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute – assessed the human-elephant conflict section of the Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan.
The groups agreed on the need to conduct an elephant population assessment, to investigate the community-specific drivers of conflict, to raise awareness, and to educate communities and authorities about human-elephant conflict (HEC).
“With increasing habitat loss and rising levels of HEC, elephant conservation in Myanmar is a challenge no one group can address alone,” said Nick Cox, conservation program manager with WWF-Myanmar.
Since 2010, there have been 35 human deaths and 95 wild elephant deaths related to poaching and conflict across nine regions of Myanmar. Human populations face problems related to crop and property loss because of wild elephants, while the elephants are squeezed into ever-diminishing territory.
Minister for Natural Resources and Environment U Ohn Win spoke of an alarming increase in human and wild elephant deaths because of a loss of habitat, in part due to shrinking forests. Forest coverage in Myanmar has rapidly decreased, dropping 42 percent since 1990, according to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.