A huge haul of elephant tusks and pangolin scales are displayed at Hong Kong Customs after being seized in transit. Image credit: Myanmar Times

Myanmar is gradually becoming an important transit point for the illicit wildlife trade in the South Asian region.

This came to light in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) report released this month.

According to the report, the number of wildlife trafficking seizures in Myanmar is considerably lower than those made elsewhere in the Mekong sub-region.

“But the country is an increasingly important transit point for the illicit wildlife trade,” the report also added.

According to the UNDOC reports, officials from 2013-1207 seized 34 shipments of pangolin scales and other parts weighing in total up to 1.2 tonnes.

The country also has an illegal trade of elephant skin and a blooming market of it as well.

“Myanmar has the perfect conditions for the illegal wildlife trade,” said Christy Williams, country director of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Myanmar).

“The country is abundant wildlife, conflict in border regions with little or no government control, located near the infamous Golden Triangle where all sorts of illegal trade thrive, and neighbours with China, where demand for illegal wildlife products is greatest,” Williams added.

“This means that the impact on Myanmar’s wildlife is devastating and to save our wildlife we need to work together across borders, stop poaching and end this insidious trade,” Williams further added.

The WWF along with the fellow conservation partners are working to support the Myanmar government in its fight against wildlife trafficking.

They have been imparting training, capacity-building and conducting public awareness campaigns like Voices for Momos and the Yangon Elephant Museum.

In its war against the illegal trade, the Myanmar government has burnt US$1.15 million (K1.7 billion) worth of elephant tusks and other wildlife parts that have been seized in the year so far.

As per the trends of the recent seizures made by the government, it was found that the wildlife trade is conducted by individuals who make direct contact with speciality suppliers.

Sometimes the trade is also carried out through scrap yards, taxidermy shops, pet fairs, warehouses and health clinics.

The war against the illegal trade can’t be won on its own and the Myanmar government has sought help and cooperation from the locals as well.

Myanmar Times quoting minister for natural resources and environmental conservation U Ohn Win wrote, “We are trying to prevent and take action against illegal wildlife trafficking. But the public also needs to cooperate to ensure the success of this effort.”

In Southeast Asia, the important illicit wildlife market is China including Hong Kong.

Here, over 90 per cent of buyers is tourists.

Northeast Now is a multi-app based hyper-regional bilingual news portal. Mail us at: contact@nenow.in

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