KESAN launched its latest report, “Endangered Elephants in Megatha Forest, Karen State, Burma”which found evidence that the Megatha Forest is home to 15-18 elephants in 2-3 small groups of 3-7 individuals, a great reduction from the historical population of about 100. The Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) held a press conference last Monday, 25th July at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok.
The wild elephants research takes place in Megatha forest, which is a 156 sq km protected Wildlife Sanctuary in Karen State. There has been no study of the area due to decades of armed conflict, and scientists have never even explored at the Karen State. Many wildlife researchers from Burma and Thailand have published biodiversity information about the surrounding areas, but the biodiversity and richness in Karen State has never been mentioned in such reports.
Saw Blaw Htoo, researcher and author of the report said “we choose this area because it is the most remote and least known by anybody in the world and it is the most threatened area for the wildlife species in Burma.”
The study area includes lowland, hills and valleys, with elevations ranging from 400 meters to 1052 meters. The forest in the area can be categorized as semi-evergreen, mix-deciduous, meadows and bamboo dominate the forests, which vary from slightly disturbed to undisturbed. This forest is under the local administration of the Karen Forest Department, Dooplaya District Office, but direct threats to wild elephants and other wildlife remain, in large part due to the civil war in Burma and natural resources extraction.
KESAN has undertaken this study from 2008 to 2010 to begin documentation of the wild elephant population and rich biodiversity in Megatha Forest. KESAN researchers spent two years looking for elephants and talking to local people and forest officials about the pachyderms and other wildlife. KESAN researchers found evidence that Megatha Forest is home to 15-18 elephants in 2-3 small groups of 3-7 individuals, a great reduction from the historical population of about 100.
Currently, there are many threats to these wild elephants due to unstable political situation in Burma.
According to the report, a lot of poachers captured the wild elephant calves in Karen State and sold in Thailand for tourism. They got 300,000 to 500,000 Baht per calf. Most of the captured calves died because of improper care. Sometimes poachers kill the mother elephant to get the calf. If this remains unabated, I think the wild elephant in the Karen State will not last for another century. We worry about his situation because in Megatha forest, 30 years ago, there were 100 individual wild elephants. Poaching and wildlife trade have significantly reduced its population today to 10-15 individuals. If poaching continues, the remaining herds of the wild elephants in the Megatha Forest would be gone in a decade. The protection of the last few remaining wild elephants in Megatha is urgent if we want the next generation to witness and enjoy the rich wildlife and biodiversity in this part of Karen State.
This report is part of an ongoing effort to document the remaining biological richness of Karen State. It also identified the imminent threats and protection measures to stop the exploitation of wildlife and biological treasures of Karen State. In 2008, KESAN published “Khoe Kay: Biodiversity in Peril” which included comprehensive surveys that identified more than 400 plant and animal species in one part of Karen State on the Salween River Basin.