Protections for pachyderms finalised

Asian Elephant WCS 72
Better hope for the future of this juvenile elephant in the wild. Photo: WCS Myanmar

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) has called for 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.
These objectives have been outlined in the Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan (MECAP) — the country’s first-ever plan for the conservation of this species developed through extensive consultation over the last 12 months and culminating in a workshop last week in Nay Pyi Taw.
The plan outlines priorities over the next 10 years to safeguard these iconic animals for future generations, including engaging the public in the control of illegal poaching, trade and consumption of elephants and their 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).
“Elephant conservation started with Myanmar’s kings,” said His Excellency U Ohn Win, Union Minister for MONREC. “The urgency now for elephant conservation action is due to the increasing killing of elephants for illegal trade in ivory and parts. The Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan (MECAP) is very important to support the long-term survival of Myanmar’s elephants.”
Myanmar is thought to be home to approximately 2,000 wild elephants, which are under increasing threat from poachers for their ivory, their skin and other parts. The animals are also captured live and traded. Myanmar also has about 6,000 Asian elephants previously used in the timber industry. New measures to secure the future of these elephants are now required in face of the downsizing of the logging sector.
The MECAP effort, led by the Forest Department under MONREC, was developed in collaboration with eight government departments and agencies, including the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE), which is the largest owner of elephants in the country. The development process has been supported by numerous international and local experts and organisations including the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the International Elephant Foundation (IEF), Elephant Family, Friends of Wildlife and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI).
The number of elephants killed has increased dramatically since 2010, with 133 wild elephant deaths recorded over the last seven years, including 25 in 2016 alone.
“Habitat loss, poaching and human-elephant conflict are pressing threats to elephant conservation in Myanmar,” said Dr. Simon Hedges, Elephant Coordinator at WCS. “This workshop and its resulting outcomes represent a significant achievement towards securing the future of Asian elephants.”
“The Myanmar Government is seriously considering the recommendations of CITES to close its domestic ivory trade and to secure, register and manage our existing stockpiles of ivory,”said  U Win Naing Thaw, Director of the Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division (NWCD) of the Forest Department. “We also need additional support for the protection of elephants in the wild. This conservation plan for elephants is a great step forward, and we now have a solid foundation to address this vital issue in Myanmar.”—GNLM/WCS

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