Coalition launched in response to wild elephant skinning crisis


In this photograph taken on September 26, 2016, Myanmar mahouts take their trained elephants, used in shows, to an exercise ground at a village in Bago Region, Myanmar. Photo: Ye Aung Thu/AFP

Myanmar is losing at least one wild elephant per week to poaching and skinning. If this continues, Myanmar could lose its wild elephants in a matter of years. In a bid to stop and reverse this rapid decline, six conservation organisations have come together to form VOICES FOR MOMOS (Voices for Myanmar Elephants), a multi-sector coalition in support of Myanmar’s national plan to protect its elephants: the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC)’s Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan (MECAP).

Union Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation His Excellency U Ohn Win said, “The Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan has been developed and designed to reverse the decline in the wild elephant population and to secure their future for the next generation of Myanmar people. We welcome the partnership with VOICES FOR MOMOS and look forward to working together in putting an end to elephant poaching and illegal wildlife trading.”

Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA), Fauna & Flora International (FFI) Myanmar, Friends of Wildlife, Grow Back for Posterity (GBP), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) are the founding partners of VOICES FOR MOMOS, which calls on individuals and organisations to use their voice to drive awareness, education and call for the end of illegal wildlife sales in Myanmar.

“Myanmar’s wild elephants will be wiped out unless we take action now. We are calling upon individuals and organisations across all sectors to join VOICES FOR MOMOS and use their voice to speak up before our wild elephants are silenced forever,” said Nay Myo Shwe, Taninthayi Conservation Programme Coordinator, Fauna & Flora International Myanmar.

A high demand for elephant body parts including skin has turned the country into a poaching hotspot. Elephants are typically shot with poisoned darts or high velocity rifles, and die a prolonged and painful death before being skinned. Their skin, teeth, tusks and other parts are sold locally and overseas.

Elephant skin has long been part of the illegal wildlife trade but never at these levels. In 2016, 18 wild elephants were killed (source: MONREC) but by August this year NGOs working in the field put the figure of poached and skinned elephants at ‘at least 30’, averaging one per week. Official estimates put the wild elephant population in Myanmar at 1400-2000 but could be far lower.

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