Myanmar is an important trade and transit route for wildlife products of China.
It has also suffered from the loss of its own wildlife to the trade.
The capture and killing of wild animals in the country to help satisfy the appetite across the border in China threaten many species that are under threat or facing extinction, including pangolins and elephants, according to reports.
The situation for Asian elephants living in Myanmar has worsened.
According to the NGO Rainforest Rescue, until recently only male Asian elephants were in danger of being poached for ivory, as the females do not have tusks.
Now, the poachers are killing every animal they can find – including females and calves.
After the elephants slowly succumb to poisoned arrows, the poachers skin their prey on the spot.
The NGO claims the survival of the species is at stake if the killing continues.
More than 100 elephants are known to have been poached in Myanmar since 2013 to meet Chinese demand for elephant skin – a market that didn’t exist six years ago that is driven entirely by the criminal energy of southeast Asian elephant poachers.
According to a new study, the business is spreading to other countries via Myanmar and China.
A major hub of the elephant-skin trade is the lawless Myanmar border town Mong La.
It is also flourishing at a market near the Golden Rock, one of Myanmar’s most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
The elephant skin is dried, powdered and mixed with coconut oil to make an ointment that is touted as a cure for skin conditions and digestive problems.
Traffickers also mix powdered elephant skin and pangolin scales.
The skin is also made into jewellery, such as beaded bracelets selling for less than $100.
Rainforest Rescue claims the criminal business is internationally organized and the local authorities turn a blind eye.
In Myanmar, elephant poachers face up to seven years in prison, but it has been found that violations are rarely prosecuted.
Many animals or animal parts can be found openly being sold in markets in the country.
However, there is some respite to China’s deadly illicit trade in wildlife as Beijing recently announced a temporary ban on the sale of wildlife in the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan that is suspected to have originated in the city’s wet market.
While the focus is on demand in China for live and dead animals for consumption for questionable health reasons, Myanmar is caught in the cross-hairs as an important transit route in the illicit trade.