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Wildlife conservation in Myanmar and biodiversity


The country scores as one of the richest biological reservoirs in Asia and is probably the richest of any country of comparable size. Being a country endowed with diverse geophysical features and climate, the unusual types of plant community containing moist tropical forests in the south, temperate broad leave forests and the alpine forests in the north, and dry deciduous forests in the central part of the country cover nearly half of the total land area .

All climate ranges are in the country from very wet in the south very dry in central Myanmar with annual rainfall of less than 500 mm, to 6,000 mm in wet region of the southern and northern part. It forms a corridor between India, China and Sundaic sub biogeographical regions in India-Malayan realm.

The country has enormous species richness. Over 7,000 plants have been recorded and of which some 1,000 are identified as endemic spp. Myanmar also has a rich diversity of fauna, 300 species of mammals, 1,000 birds species (12 percent of world total) and 360 species of reptiles / snakes and amphibians, about 68 swellow tail butterflies represent 12% of the world total making it the fifth richest country in the world, best to be seen at Alaungtaw Kathapa the biggest Myanmar National Park near Monywa. There is a another wildlife reserve with tigers and other animals at Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve.

Myanmar's mountains with forest covers half of the land area, containing unusually diverse array of geophysical and biological diversity, provide a natural spatial scenario for establishing a representative systems at various level of biogeographically sites. Tropical rain forest associated with Malayan fauna in the south to snowcapped mountain habited with in Himalayan flora and fauna in the north and 1,500 miles long seacoast of Myanmar proffer the best opportunity unmatched in the region.

Forest Management and Wildlife Conservation

Myanmar's long history in wildlife conservation with a record service of almost 150 years could conserve the wildlife. Though the out-cry for wildlife conservation only gained prominence at the international community during last few decades, the first wildlife sanctuary in Myanmar was designated in 1859 at the environ of Royal Mandalay City. By legacy Myanmar cherishes trees and animals as lovable ones.Recognizing the elephant as an indispensable logging force in timber extraction operation and environmentally benign method, the wild elephant protection act was the first wildlife legislature ever enacted in 1879. To give legal status towards the effective conservation of wildlife, Myanmar wildlife protection act of 1936 was promulgated for the protection and conservation of wildlife in Myanmar. However, 1936 wildlife act did not address the conservation of habitats of wildlife in particular. It provides inter-alia for-

a. designation of wildlife sanctuaries with specific species conservation objectives;

b. defining three categories of protection of wild animals- protection of endangered wild animals as completely protected animal;

c. protection of viable population status of wild animals as protected animals;

d. indeterminate status of wild animals as seasonal protect animals to allow the traditional low level hunting for the meat of rural community.

Wildlife Sanctuaries
Myanmar Forest

According to Myanmar Forest Act of 1902, Forest Department was given responsibility for wildlife protection. Under Forest Act, wildlife was designated as "Forest produce" and forest officers were empowered to control hunting. The first wildlife legislature of 1927 was later revised, and comprehensive Myanmar Wildlife Protection Act was promulgated in 1936. In 1927, a Game Wander was appointed for the conservation of wildlife in general and control of Keddah operation for the capture of wild elephants to strengthen the elephant working force in timber industry.

Considering the wildlife protection

of 1936 did not envisage the conservation of wildlife habitat and biodiversity conservation and Myanmar strong commitment in nature and biodiversity conservation, new Myanmar Nature and wildlife legislation was promulgated in

1994. New Nature and Wildlife Law is inconsistent with four Rio Documents;- the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, Statement of Principles on Forests and The Conservation on Biogical Diversity. New Myanmar Nature and Wildlife Legislation was framed with perspectives to match the country wildlife status, biogeographical situation and the traditional use of biological resource by the rural populace; dependents of wildlife and forests:-

- recognition of the relationship between the development programs and wildlife conservation and management of wildlife resources in a sustainable way;

Myanmar Genetic Diversity
Rural Community - formation of network of protected areas, corridors and integrated managed zones, to safeguard the ecosystems, species and genetic diversity and promote environmentally sound development around the areas;

- protection of threatened and endangered species;

- recognition and support the traditional environmental friendly land use, culture and rights of indigenous people and forest dwellers;

- accounting the non-consumptive use value of wildlife conservation value in national accounting system through nature based tourism and consumptive use value of the rural community;

- in-situ and ex-situ conservation of wildlife by the establishment of botanical and zoological garden;

- guidelines for control and regulation of trade activities

- training and stimulation of awareness on wildlife conservation amongst individuals, N.G.Os, government and others;

- strengthening the institutional capacity through the collaboration and assistance from government and non-government organizations.

The new Wildlife Law designated, thirty nine mammals, fifty ayes and nine

Myanmar Wildlife
Myanmar Biodiversity

reptiles as Completely Protected Animals, twelve mammals, forty three ayes and six reptiles as Protected animals; and two mammals and thirteen ayes as "Seasonally Protected Animals " The present and management of wildlife resources in a sustainable way;

Biodiversity and Wildlife Conservation Legislature

will remain to be revised until the biodiversity assessment and inventory has been conducted. However, unprecedented pressure is mounting the loss of biodiversity countrywide, particularly in border areas through illegal lucrative wildlife trade. There are many socioeconomically important species value to man as wild relatives of domestic species such as: elephant, musk-deer, citrus, tea, wild rice, wild pigs, Jungle fowl, etc. Concerns on environment and biodiversity are being felt:-

- Poaching for wildlife lucrative trade at border areas;

- Encroachment on forest lands;

- Mounting pressure on native forests through indiscriminate cutting for firewood and logging;

- dwindling of species on account of habitat destruction and poaching;

- Deforestation in central dry zone of the country;

- Lack of technical skills to plan and implement

Encroachment on forest lands
Biodiversity Conservation

- A program of biodiversity and environmental impact assessment and environment monitoring system at development programs.

The development of protected areas

system for the conservation of wildlife in general and protection of critical ecosystems is still in early stages here. At present, there is no overall environmental and biodiversity conservation strategy in the country.

For example, the areas in the northern Hindu-Kush-Himalayan are not covered by the existing programs and the level of information on the status and distribution of wildlife species in the country is still lacking although survey on some important potential sites for protected areas was conducted in 1981-1983.

But, a resurgence and commitment to biodiversity conservation in Myanmar is demonstrated in a timely manner by: the establishment of National Commission on

Environmental Affairs to coordinate relevant environmental issues with concerned ministries, formulation of National Forest Policy (1995), Forest Law (1992) and Nature and Wildlife Law (1994), National Forestry Action Plan and Agenda 21 of Myanmar (in the Processing State).

To bring an impact on biodiversity conservation, training and manpower development in the areas of environmental sector is prerequisite. Myanmar biodiversity conservation strategy needs to receive financial and institutional support from UNDP, Government, and Non-Government Organizations. The emergence and involvement of national N.G.Os (nature awareness groups) will help foster the environment and biodiversity conservation at Myanmar mountains and elsewhere. It is also essential to use the religious institution and public education system for dissemination of environmental awareness.

Myanmar mountains

Buffer Zone Management in reserve forests and protected areas, firewood plantations, fuel saving devices and involvement of local community must be integrated in the conservation of environment and biodiversity.

The country has demonstrated the achievement of conservation of key ecosystems and species since 1856 with Myanmar Selection Forest Management System. The government has fully committed to wildlife conservation and amelioration of climate condition by singing and ratifying the convention on Biological Diversity and Convention on climate change.

In the context of Myanmar Agenda 21, it will pursue the guidelines of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (U.N. C.E.D):- Rio 

Declaration, Agenda 21, Statement of Principles on Forests, Convention on Biological Diversity and Convention on Climate Change.

Myanmar is one of the richest biological reservoirs in Asia, and the northern territory of Myanmar is certainly enormously embraced with diverse array of species. The development of nature reserves and national parks for the preservation and protection of critical habitats is still in early stage. The enchanting splendors scenic beauty of northern bioregion of the country, signified by the presence of highest snowcapped mountain (Hkakabo Razi-6096 m) deserves more emphasis, as it is habited by rare and endangered wildlife species.

Hkakabo Razi

Richness of flora and fauna,

which is as much a port of the national heritage as ancient Bagan and other cultural monuments of which the essence, serves a variety of purpose giving aesthetic, cultural, economic and ecological benefits. Myanmar flora and fauna are dwindling. Some species have become extinct and some are on the verge of extinction. Protected areas of Myanmar are low compared to neighboring south east Asian Countries.

The present protected areas system coverage 1.8% of the country land will be increased to 5% in a short term goal to conserve its richness of flora, fauna and landscapes. Recognizing the people involvement is a key in biodiversity conservation.

Their participation will be achieved through sharing fair and equitable benefits accrued from the economics of biodiversity. Forest-based tourism will be the integral scenario in the development of parks and people. Author U Thain Lwin

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