Threatened species caught in crossfire of ongoing land conflict in Myanmar

Reaching down into the Malay Peninsula, Myanmar’s southern Tanintharyi region is home to rainforests that support a unique assemblage of endemic and endangered species, including the endangered Malay tapir (Tapirus indicus), critically endangered Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and endangered lar gibbon (Hylobates lar). But the relative flatness of much of the forest, along with its valuable timber species and its suitability for a variety of commodity crops, renders it extremely vulnerable to large-scale industrial agriculture, logging and other human pressures.

For a long time, the region’s biodiversity went relatively unscathed due to protracted political and economic isolation from much of the world. However, political and economic reforms have led to major transformations in the area. Even areas previously untouched have now been opened up to investors both local and foreign, putting a strain on the many wildlife populations that reside there.

Areas targeted by loggers and plantation companies include two proposed national parks, Lenya and Tanintharyi, that together cover more than 526,000 hectares (1.3  million acres). They were first proposed by the Myanmar government in 2002 and remain on hold due to regional conflict.

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Aimee Gabay