A wide stretch of forest that is home to elephants, tigers, monkeys, and pangolins has become Myanmar’s newest wildlife sanctuary, the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) announced on Tuesday.
The 67,000-acre Kaydoh Mae Nyaw Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Kayin State, near the Thai border. It is known to be home to 64 mammal species, 122 bird species, 12 amphibian species, and 20 reptile species, including the endangered big-headed turtle and elongated tortoise.
Since the area has barely been explored, conservationists believe it may be home to unknown species as well.
The area was identified as a haven for rare species by the Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative (KWCI), whose six camera traps caught sight of 31 species in northern Kayin State in 2014 and 2015.
The wildlife sanctuary will be managed by members of the local Kayin community, and KESAN will help coordinate law enforcement patrols, infrastructure maintenance, and awareness programs.
Conservation initiatives in the area have been supported by the Rainforest Trust. The trust’s chief conservationist, Dr. George Wallace, said: “The indigenous Karen people’s local knowledge and pride of their homeland are key to the success of Kaydoh Mae Nyaw and the preservation of its precious resources.”
According to the FAO Global Forest Resource Assessment 2015, Myanmar had the world’s third highest annual net loss of forest area between 2010 and 2015, behind only Brazil and Indonesia.
Poaching in the region, driven by the multi-billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade, is also at critical levels.
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