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Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar conjures up images of archetypical Asian jungle: lush rainforest dripping with moisture, great muddy rivers snaking across broad valleys peppered with conical pagodas, forests alive with the trumpeting of elephants, and the crooning songs of gibbons.
As a country, Myanmar has a greater diversity of ecosystems than any other nation in mainland Southeast Asia, with some of the most intact natural habitats and communities of species remaining in the entire region – including many endemic and globally threatened species.
In North-central Myanmar’s Sagaing Region, the fantasy image comes to life as mountainous peaks slope down to fertile lowlands hosting fantastic wealth of flora and fauna. Iconic species such as Clouded Leopards, Golden Cat, Banteng, Sunda and Chinese Pangolin are all found in forests here, as well as a small population of Endangered Asian Elephants.
Additionally, these forests are very important for the long-term conservation of Vulnerable Eastern Hoolock Gibbons – a rare Asian primate with distinct facial markings and loud haunting calls. With a total population estimated at only 10,000-50,000, this area is a stronghold for the species across its global range.
To protect Central Myanmar’s wildlife, Rainforest Trust has teamed up with local partner Friends of Wildlife (FOW) to help establish the Mahamyaing Wildlife Sanctuary (MWS). The 291,680-acre reserve will provide critical protection for Eastern Hoolock Gibbon and other rare species, while providing an outstanding opportunity for expansion of Myanmar’s network of protected areas.
Asian Elephant (EN), Sunda Pangolin (CR), Chinese Pangolin (CR), Eastern Hoolock Gibbon (VU), Green Peafowl (EN)
Evergreen, mixed deciduous forests
Deforestation, agricultural encroachment, poaching
Establishing the Mahamyaing Wildlife Sanctuary
Friends of Wildlife (FOW)
Cost Per Acre
The proposed Mahamyaing Wildlife Sanctuary (MWS) hosts a particularly rich and intact assortment of Asian wildlife. Biodiversity surveys have recorded Clouded Leopard, Fishing Cat, Chinese Serow and the Critically Endangered Chinese and Sunda Pangolins.
A significant portion of the global population of Eastern Hoolock Gibbon – a rare Asian primate with distinct facial markings and loud haunting calls – is found in the sanctuary area, representing at least 10% and probably over 25% of the global population. The reserve also serves as an important corridor and refuge for an estimated 60 Endangered Asian Elephants, which are becoming increasingly rare across their range. In addition, the area has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA). Over 86 bird species have been identified in the proposed sanctuary including the strikingly beautiful and Endangered Green Peafowl. Over 74 species of butterfly and a diverse suite of flora have also been documented.
Forests in Central Myanmar are becoming increasingly strained by demand for illegal timber and food crops, while poaching for the illegal wildlife trade decimates rare species that are outside protected areas.
Threats to the proposed wildlife sanctuary come mainly from extraction of timber and the encroachment of roads that degrade and fragment habitat. In addition to these threats, a lack of effective management and institutional support of protected areas in Myanmar hampers protection efforts.
There are 24 villages in and around the proposed Mahamyaing Wildlife Sanctuary, including two inside the sanctuary. Communities here live at a subsistence level relying on farming, small scale trade and hunting for their livelihoods.
However, FOW is working to empower villagers with alternatives to extractive industries through promotion of customary land rights and conservation education. Already, FOW have carried out gibbon census surveys together with local villagers and rangers from the Nature- Wildlife Conservation Division in charge of all protected areas. Collaborative projects such as these create a culture of inclusiveness and shared responsibility essential for community-based conservation efforts to succeed.
Thanks to the generous support of our Board members and other supporters who cover all of our operating expenses, Rainforest Trust is able to allocate 100% of donations to conservation action. No board member receives financial benefit and our staff salaries are modest.
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