Five journalists whose reports have helped raise awareness about the wildlife trade in Myanmar have been honoured at an event held to coincide with World Wildlife Day, March 3.
The five won awards in a competition organised as part of a training program for journalists organised by the wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, and the British embassy late last year.
The awards, for reports about elephant poaching, the sale of endangered species and restaurants serving wild meat, were presented by British ambassador Andrew Patrick, TRAFFIC said in a news release.
Htet Khung Linn of The Irrawaddy was awarded the top prize for a two-page special report titled Unsafe Wild Elephants, that examined the threats to Myanmar’s wild elephant population.
His report drew on the detailed and disturbing accounts of officials involved in investigating the illegal killing of wild elephants.
It also covered issues such as the capture of young elephants for the ecotourism trade, the sale of ivory and growing demand for other elephant parts.
The article referred to poaching networks, illegal arms ownership and described the challenges of keeping wild elephants safe.
The report won Htet Khung Linn a trip to the Kaziranga National Park, a World Heritage site in India’s northeastern state of Assam. He will have the opportunity to see wildlife such as one-horned rhinos, elephants and tigers in an area where they face the threat of poaching to supply the illegal trade in Myanmar and beyond.
Second prize went to 7Day News journalists Zaynway Tun Tun and Khine Khine Soe for their report titled, What Would You Like to Eat?
It described the popularity of wild meat dishes in Yangon and an influx of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants offering menus featuring wildlife.
An article in the Myanmar Times entitled Wildlife Trade Troubles Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda won third prize for deputy editor Aye Sapay Phyu and journalist Myint Kaythi. It focussed on the open and illegal sale of endangered species at the pilgrimage site and its impact on animal populations in the surrounding jungle.
The “incredibly rich” biodiversity of Myanmar was under threat, Mr Patrick said in a speech at the awards presentation ceremony that praised the role of journalism in exposing the illegal wildlife trade.
“Climate change and deforestation are reasons, but the illegal wildlife trade is key,” Mr Patrick said.
“Reporting on this important issue will be key to tackling it. I hope that our winners, and other journalists in Burma, will continue to raise this important issue in their writing,” he said.
Mr Patrick’s comments were echoed by TRAFFIC regional director Chris Shepherd.
“Raising awareness and advocating for better care for our natural world is paramount – it is not too late,” said Dr Shepherd.
“The threat of illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade has never been so great. Myanmar stands to lose an untold number of species, which would ultimately have negative impacts on ecosystems, quality of human life, livelihoods, and important cultural symbols,” he said.