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Illegal elephant trade flourishes in Burma : TRAFFIC

vendredi 12 décembre 2008

With at least 250 elephants and ivory being smuggled out of Burma in a decade, the Southeast Asian nation faces a sharp come down in its pachyderm population, a new report reveals.

The report, by the wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, said being the centre of an illegal trade for elephants and ivory, Burma is losing out on precious animals to poachers and is subject to illegal trade, where elephants are sold mainly to neighbouring countries for ’Elephant Trekking’.

Chris R. Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s Southeast Asia Senior Program Officer, said, "The elephant population in Myanmar [Burma] is declining due to poaching and illegal cross border trade."

Shepherd citing traders involved in the illegal trade, said most elephants are smuggled out to neighbouring Thailand, to be used in trekking in the tourism industry and for entertainment.

"Females and juvenile elephants are particularly targeted to meet the demand from the tourism industry in Thailand, where they are put to work in elephant trekking centres," the report said.

TRAFFIC, in its report said, in its survey of 14 markets in Burma and three border markets in Thailand and China, it found out that at least 9,000 pieces of ivory and 16 whole tusks have been illegally traded for sales.

Among the different routes along the international border, Chris said, the Three Pagodas pass road, one of the Thai-Burmese borders in southern Burma, is the main gateway through which the traders illegally smuggle out elephants and ivory to Thailand.

While traders use various means to transport the elephants, some openly use trucks to carry live elephants through the border, Chris added. The report said, beside the traders, government officials also have a nexus in smuggling the elephants by accepting bribes from the traders.

"Our research found evidence of corruption allowing the smuggling of ivory and elephants to take place," Chris said, adding that more official patrol needs to be deployed along the border to stop illegal cross-border-trade.

TRAFFIC in its report, said Burmese authorities in order to address the illegal trade in live elephants and ivory needs to work closely with enforcement officers in neighbouring Thailand and China.

"Myanmar [Burma] has the potential to become a major stronghold for Asian Elephants ; it’s a pity that illegal capture and killing are pushing elephants towards extinction there," said Ajay Desai, Co-Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUNC) Asian Elephant Specialist Group, in a press statement released on Thursday.

"Neighbouring countries need seriously to reconsider their policy on the use of captive elephants and also enforce laws to stop illegal trade in wildlife products," Desai added.

Chris, in an interview with Mizzima, also warned regional governments that there will be a serious impact on conservation of elephant in Asia unless a proper control system is put in place in order to prevent the ongoing illegal trading of wild life.

"It is going to have a very negative impact on the conservation of elephants in Asia. The elephant in Asia is already in danger," Chris said.

According to the report, which is the result of a survey since 2006, approximately 4000 to 5000 wild elephants can be found in Burma, largely settled in the central plain regions of the country.

New Delhi Salai Pi Pi, Mizzina 12 December 2008

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