Strong Chinese Demand Fueling Elimination of Myanmar's Wildlife

Mong La market
One of the few remaining hotbeds for endangered biodiversity in Southeast Asia — Myanmar — is slowly but surely being decimated by a resurgence in illegal wildlife trading. Once a refuge for wild macaques, cobras, Burmese star tortoises and pangolins, Myanmar's forests have become the new repository for flush Chinese tourists and the country's booming restaurant sector — an illicit black market worth billions of dollars. Amidst the displays of exotic fruits and vegetables, one can find a variety of different sized animal parts — including leopard skins, bear gall bladders and deer horn.

Many of the trafficked animals are listed on the IUCN's (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) "Red List" of critically endangered species. "Burma is being raped in terms of its natural resources -- trees, plants and animals. They've got to get a hold of the situation quickly before it becomes a barren ground," said Steven Galster, director of the Wildlife Alliance.Though Myanmar originally signed up to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1997, wildlife traffickers and gangs have benefited from the sometimes lax enforcement by the country's ruling junta. "These gangs are very big and have members stretching from Indonesia and Malaysia to Thailand and right up into China. They tend to be armed and there's still political influence in countries like China and Myanmar," said Aroon Promphan, a captain in Thailand's special wildlife crime police division.

Chinese authorities have escalated their efforts in recent years to stop the illicit trafficking, causing the trade to spill over beyond the country's borders. As Galster noted, while the government has made progress in raising awareness about the environmental consequences of illegal animal trading: "The problem is you've got 1.3 billion people and so it only takes a tiny percent of that population to be eating an endangered species to have a major impact."

Via ::Reuters: Myanmar wildlife pays the price for Chinese demand (news website)

See also: ::DNA Kit to Fight Illegal Animal Trading, ::China's Tiger Trade Ban: It's Grrreat! But Will It Last?
Image courtesy of Reuters

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