Demand for skin, meat and bones drives up elephant poaching in Myanmar

Demand for elephant parts, including but not limited to ivory, is causing a spike in poaching in Myanmar, the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry has said.

Natural and Wildlife Conservation Department director Win Naing Zaw told Eleven that the skin, meat and bones of Myanmar elephants are being smuggled abroad to be used in cosmetics, medicines and accessories, including hand bags.

“Something that is different in Myanmar compared to [poaching cases in] Africa is that the elephants here and around Asia also get skinned, dried and sold to neighboring countries such as China and Thailand. Elephant meat, snout and feet jerkies are now being sold there,” said Win Naing Zaw told Eleven.

He also previously told 7Day Daily that the concentration of international attention on the ivory trade out of Africa has afforded poachers more freedom to operate in Asia.

The ministry official said law enforcement authorities are forming task forces in an effort to arrest poachers, who operate in gangs. The authorities tend to avoid confrontations with these gangs because they are often heavily armed, allowing poachers to escape capture.

According to ministry data, a total of 133 wild elephants in Myanmar have died from between 2010 and 2016; 72 died from natural causes, while 61 were illegally killed by poachers.

Conservationists estimate that there are between 2,000 to 3,000 wild elephants in Myanmar.

The Myanmar government has been making efforts to combat the rise in elephant deaths. Last year, forestry department officials and international conservation groups held a workshop to address the “alarming increase in human and wild elephant deaths caused by a loss of natural habitat”.

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