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September 16, 2019

Stop the trade in elephant body parts

  • It is disheartening to see the skinned carcass of an elephant these days in daily newspapers. It shows that the growing trade in elephant skin, combined with continuing demand for ivory, is still threatening Myanmar’s elephant population.
    Under interrogation, a gang of poachers confessed that they killed a female elephant in January last year and sold the elephant’s parts to a trader in Yangon. The group killed two more elephants in October 2017 and March 2018 and reportedly sold the elephant body parts to the same trader.
    Authorities have formed a joint force with officials in areas where a high number of elephant poaching cases were reported to prevent the illegal killing of the animals.
    The threat is currently greatest in Myanmar. The Asian elephant could become extinct if the problem continues.
    The threat exceeds that from the ivory trade because poachers are targeting any elephant, not just those with tusks.
    The poachers kill elephants indiscriminately, targeting males, females, and juveniles. That means that no elephant is safe. The survival of the species is at stake.
    Fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild, and fewer than 2,000 of them are found in Myanmar. Historically, poaching in Myanmar has been minimal because only 1 per cent of male elephants in Myanmar have tusks.
    But since 2013, more than 110 elephants have been reportedly killed, primarily in the Bago Yoma and Ayeyarwady Delta, where a lack of anti-poaching patrols has left elephants at risk.
    We need to take urgent action to reverse the decline in the wild elephant population of Myanmar, which are being killed at an increasing rate, while securing the future of the country’s former timber-trade elephants.
    The killing and smuggling of animals is undermining economies and ecosystems, fuelling organized crime and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe.
    In Myanmar, elephant conservation started in the monarchy eras. Today, loss of habitat, poaching and human-elephant conflict are pressing threats to elephant conservation in Myanmar.
    A plan was drawn up last year to safeguard the iconic animals over the next 10 years while engaging the public in the control of illegal poaching and the trading of elephant parts.
    The strategy is also designed to ensure Myanmar’s laws and policies are consistent with international commitments such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
    This conservation plan for elephants is a great step forward. We also need to step up our efforts for the protection of elephants in the wild. The Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan (MECAP) is very important to support the long-term survival of Myanmar’s elephants.
    We now have a solid foundation to address this vital issue in Myanmar.

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