Myanmar was among more than 40 countries that signed on to a declaration last week in Vietnam agreeing to ramp up efforts to stem the illegal wildlife trade.
Initiatives to that end will include collection of “market information regarding the illegal wildlife trade along Mandalay-Muse Road, the major wildlife trafficking route in Myanmar, to understand the trafficking networks”, and updates to conservation laws including increases in fines for violators.
“It is a good start but we have a long way to go before Myanmar’s wildlife and natural heritage is safe,” said the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Myanmar’s wildlife trade manager, Kristina Rodia, in a statement on November 21.
“The illegal wildlife trade is rampant in the country’s border regions and is no longer confined to market stalls: Recent footage from Panghsan [Panghsang/Pangkham township, in Shan State] showed high-end stores trading in huge quantities of endangered species,” said Ms Rodia.
“WWF would like to work with the Myanmar government and other key stakeholders to close this and other illegal trade border markets,” she added. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation will make eradication of illegal wildlife markets a priority in 2017 and 2018, according to the “Hanoi statement” released following a conference on the illegal wildlife trade, which was held in the Vietnamese capital on November 17-18.
The United Kingdom’s Prince William addressed delegates at the conference, warning that countries were not moving fast enough to address the issue.
“Despite growing international momentum to tackle wildlife crime, the global poaching crisis and surge in illegal wildlife trade show few signs of abating – largely because many countries are not living up to their commitments,” WWF Myanmar said on November 21, adding that pangolins are still being trafficked out of Southeast Asia “in vast numbers”.
“Myanmar is a critical transit country and an illegal wildlife trade hub,” said WWF Myanmar conservation director Nick Cox, in an earlier statement on November 16. “Illegal trade of all forms is thriving in the border region markets. Tiger trade in Mong La township alone has increased threefold between 2006 to 2014.”
Traders from Tachileik township, on the Thai-Myanmar border, and Mine Lar/Mong La township, on the China-Myanmar border, claim that tiger and leopard products were predominantly sourced domestically from Myanmar and neighbouring India, said that release.
“Strengthening law enforcement and closing the markets as soon as possible is essential if Myanmar is to keep its wildlife,” according to Mr Cox.