Megatha Wildlife Sanctuary is under threat from illegal logging, mining and poaching activities being carried by local people and external individuals, businesses and armed groups.
Megatha Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Kya Aye Township, Dooplaya District in Karen State, Burma. Established in 1989, it is one of the biggest wildlife sanctuaries under the administration of the Karen National Union (KNU). The Megatha forest is a complex ecosystem that is rich in biodiversity with megafauna (wild asian elephants, gaur, bears, etc) and megaflora (dipterocarps, ficus, bamboo species, etc).
The Megatha Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the middle of a conflict zone and ongoing war and militarization as well as accelerated natural resource exploitation are seriously degrading the Megatha Forest.
Despite a ban on natural resource extraction and hunting in the Sanctuary, local villagers facing economic hardships due to the effects of the ongoing civil war are increasingly turning towards alternative sources of livelihood such as illegal poaching, logging and mining in the rich and diverse Megatha Forest.
Saw Cher Po used to be a hunter who has spent over 30 years living in the Megatha Forest. After witnessing a decline in many species due to illegal hunting, poaching and logging, Saw Cher Po decided that something needed to be done to protect the forest and its wildlife.
He said, "Now when I see people logging and mining, I feel sad whereas before I didn't really think about the impacts of these activities. Now I'm trying to talk to people and explain to them the importance of preserving and protecting the forest".
Although the KNU currently have rules and regulations banning mining, logging and wildlife poaching in the Wildlife Sanctuary, many people are not obeying these rules. It is difficult for the KNU to monitor and enforce these rules due to limited human resources and capacity and the fact that the Sanctuary is located in a conflict zone.
Despite the difficulties, the KNU need to protect the forest as it is one of last remaining large wildlife sanctuaries and is home to many culturally significant plant and animal species. As well, this area is home to flora and fauna that are threatened or extinct in other parts of the world (e.g. Wild Asian Elephant).
Saw Toh, a villager from Dooplaya, said “We believe that protecting Megatha Wildlife Sanctuary is important, because we see that in other parts of Burma, we may not find big animals and trees like we do in Megatha. Although we face many challenges, we all need to help and give support to protect this forest for the next generation." Thuleikawwei