Paper statues remind Yangon shoppers to stand up for elephants

A papier-mâché elephant statue in the Junction City mall. Photo: Gurveena Ghataure

A herd of colorful papier-mâché elephant statues has been appearing at Yangon’s shopping malls over the last few days. They are part of a campaign by Voices for Momos to petition the Myanmar government to crack down on the illegal trade of elephant parts.

Voices for Momos is a coalition of six conservation organizations that banded together to stop the poaching and skinning of elephants in Myanmar.

The coalition commissioned the big, colorful statues from local artists, and they were first set up in Maha Bandoola Park in November. They next appeared in front of Junction Square last weekend, and they’re staying at Junction City this week. They have been described as the largest papier-mâché sculptures in the world.

🐘👋Yangonites! You don’t know what to do this weekend? Go say hello to our giant paper maché elephants (aka “momos”) at Junction Square! It’s their last weekend there before they leave on Monday evening for another surprise location… ✨Stay tuned! #formomos #FridayMood #weekendvibes . 🔊Sound on 🔊 . #drone #dronestagram #yangon #yangonlife #yangonoftheday #BeKindToElephants #ProtectElephants #elephantsofinstagram #saveelephants #elephantlove #elephantlovers #elephant #elephants #loveelephants #asianelephant #asianelephants #asianwildlife #savewildlife #wildlife #animallovers #conservation #stoppoaching #notopoaching #myanmar @myanmore @myanmartourism @yangonoftheday @arkerkyaw_night @eintchit @bunnyphyoe @beautybynaychi @sampantravel

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The statues are meant to draw attention to the steep decline in Myanmar’s elephant population throughout 2017, when poachers killed around one elephant every week. They also aim to draw popular support for the Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan (MECAP), which was designed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation to stop the decline in Myanmar’s elephant population.

While the statues are on display, Voices for Momos is collecting signatures for a pledge to help the government enforce the MECAP. The pledge will be sent to State counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other government offices.

The pledge reads:

2017 saw a horrifying rise in elephant poaching and skinning. Myanmar is losing at least one elephant a week to poaching, including mothers and calves. Their skins, ivory, tail hairs and teeth are sold in Myanmar’s markets.

As part of the Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan, we, the people of Myanmar, stand with you and your ministers to call for an end to these sales through effective enforcement.

Together we can protect our beloved elephants for future generations and ensure Myanmar is known globally as a wildlife champion.

In December, Voices for Momos partnered with Myanmar conglomerates KBZ Group and Shwe Taung Group to post materials discouraging the purchasing of wildlife products around Mon State’s Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, including in the pagoda’s new cable car system.

The elephant statue display is a continuation of that partnership, as Junction Square and Junction City are Shwe Taung Group properties.

Click here to sign the Voices for Momos pledge.

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