GROUND-BREAKING DISCOVERY: Survey of uncharted Myanmar region finds Southeast Asia’s last great wilderness

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GROUND-BREAKING DISCOVERY: Survey of uncharted Myanmar region finds Southeast Asia’s last great wilderness

Yangon, Myanmar (3 March) – The Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative (KWCI), with financial support from WWF and other partners, have conducted six camera traps surveys in the hill forests of Northern Karen State, Myanmar, previously inaccessible to biologists and conservationists for security and political reasons. The surveys found at least 31 mammals including tigers, leopards and Asian Elephants. 17 of the 31 are categorised as Near Threatened, Vulnerable or Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

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“It is incredibly rare to find such rich and diverse wildlife anywhere in the world today but certainly in Southeast Asia.” said Clare Campbell, Director of Wildlife Asia, the Australian conservation NGO that coordinates the KWCI. “Thanks to the long-standing conservation efforts of the Karen people this area is a refuge for the last tigers in the region, Asian elephants and so much more.”

“Karen people have intricate knowledge of their forests and wildlife which is directly responsible for the abundant wildlife in this region,” said Saw Sha Bwe Moo, technical field expert for KWCI and lead author of the survey. “However, as the peace process brings rapid economic development to Myanmar we are seeing increased habitat destruction and wildlife poaching that have decimated much of the wilderness in other parts of Southeast Asia. We must act now if we are to protect this last great wilderness.”

According to the FAO Global Forest Resource Assessment, 2015, Myanmar had the world’s third highest annual net loss of forest area between 2010–2015, behind only Brazil and Indonesia.

Poaching in the region, driven by the multi-billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade, is also at critical levels. During the survey, multiple groups of poachers were caught on camera traps.

“The illegal wildlife trade is rapidly emptying Myanmar’s forests and proximity to the infamous Golden Triangle Region makes it particularly vulnerable,” said Nick Cox, WWF-Myanmar Conservation Director. “The illegal wildlife markets in Myanmar’s cities and along all its borders must be closed, and well-trained rangers are needed on the ground if Myanmar is to keep its incredible wildlife.”

The survey was carried out in four areas of Karen State from December 2014-–July 2015. Other important species found included Asiatic golden cat, sun bear, and dhole.

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For full survey see article published in Oryx Journal First structured camera-trap surveys in Karen State, Myanmar, reveal high diversity of globally threatened mammals (*1)

Wildlife Asia is an Australian based organisation committed to the preservation of high biodiversity landscapes in Asia. Acknowledging the significant work of the Karen people to date to protect wildlife in this region and respecting their cultural traditions we are growing our support to build local capacity and foundations for long-term sustainable management. This is the first time we have alerted the international community to the global significance of the wildlife harboured in Karen State and really presented the evidence for conservation investment.

Wildlife Asia acknowledges the generous support of our major donors to this project; Mr Peter Hall, Hunter Hall International, Rainforest Trust, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Balcombe Trust, WWF Myanmar, Zoos South Australia, Mr G Whitehead and the late Mr Martin Copely.


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