The largely intact lowland forest landscape of Tanintharyi region in southern Myanmar extends from the border of Thailand to coastal mangroves and the Myeik Archipelago with its important coral reefs and seagrass habitat. Fauna & Flora is taking a landscape- and seascape-level approach to conservation by identifying high conservation value areas in most urgent need of protection and integrating them into regional development and land use plans.
Fauna & Flora knows that indigenous communities in these areas have a deep and long-held relationship with their ancestral lands. While these communities are heavily dependent on nature’s resources for food, fuel, fibre, water and medicine, we know that the land is more than the services it provides – it is a way of life. Many traditional agricultural, artisanal fishing, forest management and cultural practices have evolved in harmony with nature and are based on a wealth of indigenous and local knowledge. As such, Fauna & Flora puts the people who hold this knowledge at the heart of its work and will therefore not support the creation of any protected areas that include village land if the community does not consent. Indeed the creation of any protected areas within the boundaries of the project will not be undertaken without free, prior and informed consent.
This initiative is enabling us to address threats to the area’s ecology – particularly the expansion of oil palm and rubber plantations, illegal wildlife trade and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Where possible, we have identified the root causes of those threats – low awareness and capacity, poverty, inappropriate legal frameworks and a lack of political will – in order that they might be addressed. Palm oil expansion is driving habitat loss for many species and we have called for a moratorium on the further expansion of oil palm until regulatory mechanisms can be made fit for purpose. We have also held consultations on how to combat illegal trade in endangered species, which is driving commercial poaching. A key project activity is the expansion of community forest management, through community forestry, and capacity building for community groups in camera trapping and threat monitoring. Such work includes the conservation of important mangrove habitats within the landscape through community forestry and alternative fuelwood initiatives. We are also raising capacity in civil society through the provision of small grants. Specific to the marine environment and the issue of overfishing, FFI played a pivotal role in the establishment of Myanmar’s first three locally managed marine areas and is currently working to expand the country’s marine protected area network.
The Tanintharyi lowland forests host Myanmar’s largest remaining tiger population, a significantly important elephant population and the only remaining population of the endangered Gurney’s pitta. Beyond landscape-level interventions to protect the remaining habitat, Fauna & Flora is supporting community-based SMART patrols and transborder collaboration with law enforcement agencies in Thailand to mitigate wildlife trade and protect these species.
Fauna & Flora’s work in conflict and post-conflict areas such as Myanmar is extremely challenging but we will always abide by peace initiatives and processes and through our work within communities strive to reinforce those processes.
We are grateful for funding by the UK Government through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.