Elephant poaching emerging crisis in Myanmar

14 March 2018
Elephant poaching emerging crisis in Myanmar
An elephant looks on at Winga Baw Elephant Conservation Camp at Bago Region, Myanmar. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA-EFE

Scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) have found that poaching is an emerging crisis for Asian elephants in Myanmar, according to a report on the nationalzoo.si.edu website.
Researchers first became aware of the crisis while conducting an unrelated telemetry study in which they fitted 19 Asian elephants with satellite GPS collars to better understand elephant movements and reduce human-elephant conflict. Seven of those 19 elephants were poached within a year of being fitted with the collars. The findings suggest that human-elephant conflict, which was thought to be the biggest threat to Myanmar’s wild elephants, may be secondary to poaching. And conservation efforts to help the 1,400 to 2,000 wild elephants in Myanmar should prioritize anti-poaching efforts.
Observations and discoveries from SCBI’s partners on the ground in Myanmar found further evidence of large-scale poaching. In less than two years, they confirmed that at least 19 elephants, including the seven with satellite GPS collars, were poached. And systematic surveys showed an additional 40 poached elephants were found across the southern central region of the country.  
Unlike African elephants, Myanmar’s elephants are being targeted by poachers for their skin instead of ivory. In Asian elephants, only males have tusks, which can vary in size, the report said.