Endangered ‘golden deer’ population doubles in a decade

A herd of golden deer at the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo: MOI
A herd of golden deer at the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo: MOI

The population of Eld’s deer living in the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary in Magway Region nearly doubled over the last decade, park officials told the Global New Light of Myanmar, marking a victory for conservationists against illegal poaching.

The endangered Eld’s deer is a rare sight but can be found throughout mainland Southeast Asia, northeastern India, and southern China. The deer’s largest population is in Myanmar, where it is known as the “golden deer” and lives primarily in the Shwesettaw and Chatthin wildlife sanctuaries.

Its habitats are dipterocarp forests – dry forests that are badly threatened by humans who use them to harvest firewood and other resources.

Poaching and deforestation have caused the population in the Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary to drop from 3,000 to 1,500 between 1995 and 2015, but Shwesettaw has experienced the opposite trend. From 2008 to 2017, the sanctuary’s population grew from around 800 to between 1,400 and 1,600 animals.

The sanctuary’s staff count the deer during the last week of March every year and classify them by age and sex.

During the last counting process, members of the staff encountered traps set by poachers, who can sell the deer for around US$80 per head at illegal wildlife markets in China. In three cases, authorities pressed charges against the poachers.

However, despite the continued poaching, the staff believe that local educational initiatives are succeeding in discouraging poaching in the sanctuary.

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