The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has identified Burma as a global biodiversity hotspot, and the forests of Karen State hold local, national, regional, and global significance for conservation. Some Karen areas still support wild elephant, tiger, bear, clouded leopard, banteng, guar, and other rare and endangered species. In addition, the forests of Karen State have long been a refuge for Karen villagers throughout the civil war, providing a place to hide, and a source of food and medicine for survival. However, the forests are under increasing threat from commercial interests, as logging, mining, and agri-business development extend their reach into previously undisturbed Karen areas.
KESAN works with Karen forestry officials, local Karen communities, and conservation biologists from five conservation organizations – People Resources and Conservation Foundation, Wildlife One, Wildlife Asia, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and Gibbon Conservation Alliance – to identify, study, conserve and manage the extraordinary biodiversity of Karen State. We identify high value areas and species, demarcate wildlife sanctuaries, train local forest stewards, and conduct research on the effective protection of forest biodiversity in combination with supporting local community livelihoods.
KESAN practices community-based conservation that combines scientific expertise with local indigenous knowledge, which remains strong in rural Karen communities who have lived with and depended on the forest for generations. Since KESAN is a grassroots organization representing Karen communities, we stress local community empowerment and involvement in all our conservation initiatives. KESAN believes that the promotion and preservation of indigenous knowledge is a vital part of maintaining traditional Karen culture and identity, in addition to conserving the biodiversity of Karen territories.