Myanmar’s government is planning to conduct a 10-year action plan on elephant conservation (2018-2027), which is aimed at preventing a decrease in the number of wildlife elephants and a reduction of their pasture land.
Myanmar government action plan covers protection of wild elephants and their pasture land, solving human-elephant conflict, prevention of and enforcing action against illegal trading of elephants and their body parts as well as managing tame elephants.
According to reports, the number of wild elephants in Myanmar has dropped due to fewer wild elephant corridors, a reduction of their pasture land and human-elephant conflict. A report by EleAid, a NGO looking after the preservation of elephants all across Asia from Bangladesh to Vietnam, indicates that Myanmar had the second largest number of wild elephants and the largest remaining areas of natural elephant habitat. For these reasons, the country could probably play a key role if wild elephants are going to survive in Asia in the future.
However, numbers differ from one NGO to another. While EleAid talks of 4,000 to 5,000 elephants in Myanmar -however back to 2006-. But a report from the Myanmar government talks of a total number today of 1,430 to 2,065 wild elephants, down from 100,000 in 1940 and more than 10,000 in 1997.
Illegal hunting and wildlife trading are two of the reasons for the declination in the elephant number. The government report highlights that 133 elephants died between 2010 and 2016, 61 from poaching. The same report states that 25 elephants were killed in 2016, suggesting the rate of poaching is increasing.
The Myanmar Elephant Conservation Action Plan (MECAP) lays out a focused elephant conservation strategy for the next 10 years (2018–27) with the overall aim of securing viable and ecologically functional elephant populations in Myanmar for the next century and beyond.
MECAP, led by the Forest Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC), was developed in collaboration with eight government departments and agencies, including the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, the largest owner of elephants in the country.
The development process was supported by international and local experts and organizations including the Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF, Fauna & Flora International, the International Elephant Foundation, Elephant Family, Friends of Wildlife, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Meanwhile, Myanmar authorities have planned to open a six-elephant camp in Pyin Oo Lwin in northern Mandalay region in addition to 10 other camps of its kind as an attraction to foreign tourists. Arrangements for safe elephant rides are also underway by the authorities at these camps for tourists.
While it seems a good idea, they are more and more protests and boycott of elephant camps due to bad treatment of the animals being turned in pure tourist attractions. Many elephants in some elephant sanctuaries in Thailand are for example chained all day and force to perform shows several times a day for visitors.
(Sources: Xinhua- Myanmar local newspapers)