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Myanmar, the second largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, is home to a wealth of biodiversity. The country still harbours large tracts of forest and many charismatic and unique species such as the red panda and the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey. The latter was only discovered in 2010 by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and partners.
In stark contrast to the country’s biological riches, over two thirds of the country’s human population currently live below the poverty line and depend on natural resources for their survival.
Despite their high dependence on natural resources, local people have been excluded from decisions concerning the country’s protected areas. Yet this situation is slowly changing. For the first time grass roots organisations are being established to address issues of environmental governance and human welfare.
FFI is working with these emerging organisations in Chin and Kachin states with our local partner Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA). We are focusing on building their skills in forest and protected area management.
We are also offering guidance to state-run protected area management authorities on how to work alongside these grass roots organisations to tackle the many and mounting threats that country’s natural resources face, such as illegal logging, hunting and shifting agriculture.
In 2010, FFI and BANCA scientists described a new snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus strykeri, to science. Discovered in the watershed of the Mae River, a tributory of the Irrawaddy in Myanmar’s north-eastern Himalayas bordering Yunnan, this charismatic primate with a population of less than 300 individuals is threatened by Chinese logging companies and increasing hunting and wildlife trade associated with improved access to this remote area afforded by China’s largest hydroelectric investment project. FFI and partners BANCA and PRCF are developing local community-based conservation responses while lobbying China Power Investment to reduce its environmental impacts. The project area is located in a global biodiversity hotspot and FFI is developing interventions for several other threatened species, in particular red panda, takin and endemic pheasants.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has secured EU funding for a new long-term partnership programme to strengthen the capacity of local civil society organisations in northern Myanmar (Chin and Kachin States) to protect biodiversity through collaborative protected area management and community forestry. The programme is jointly implemented with our local NGO partner, the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA), and the People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF). Key conservation sites are Natmataung National Park and Indawgy Wildlife Sanctuary. Natmataung (Mount Victoria) National Park protects mountain forest ecosystems which are well known for their endemic plants and birds. This includes threatened species endemic to the Eastern Himalayas such as Blyth’s Tragopan and white-browed nuthatch. Indawgy Lake Wildlife Sanctuary is Myanmar’s most important site for migratory waterbirds, while the surrounding watershed forests are critical for the conservation of eastern hoolock gibbons.
FFI is building the conservation capacity of our in-country partner, the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association, to assess the status of hoolock gibbons and red pandas in Myanmar. Together we will identify opportunities for community-based conservation in sites identified as high priority.
Interventions will address threats to the species and their habitat such as unsustainable logging and firewood extraction, shifting cultivation, hunting and wildlife trade. FFI is also promoting transboundary collaboration to better protect forest along the border with China’s Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve.
FFI, BANCA and PRCF are currently completing a hoolock gibbon status review based on three years of nationwide surveys of hoolock gibbon numbers, assessments of threats to key populations and a plan for priority conservation actions.