Burma has the world’s largest sanctuary for endangered tigers, but experts are warning its population is dangerously threatened by poachers and ethnic fighting in the area.
The former military government in 2010 expanded the tiger reserve in far north Burma to about 8,450 square miles (22,000 square kilometres) – an area roughly the size of Israel – in the remote Hukaung Valley, where about 50 to 70 tigers are estimated to remain, said at article by Agence France Presse (AFP) last week.
“The tigers are in terrible shape,” said Alan Rabinowitz, chief executive of the animal protection group Panthera, who was the driving force behind the creation of the reserve. He now fears the tiger population there is rapidly declining
“The tiger is still valuable and the indigenous people there such as the Lisu and the Kachin are very much tied into the Chinese trade, and they’ve been killing off tigers,” he told AFP by telephone from the United States.
“I’m not convinced frankly that we’re going to be able to save the tigers there. We’re going to try because it’s a big enough area, and we know there are still tigers in some of the more remote regions in the far north,” he said.
The Hukaung Valley is one of the region’s last closed forests – an area with dense tree cover – and there are hopes the reserve could also protect other large mammals such as clouded leopards and Asian elephants.
Ringed by steep mountain ranges to the north, east and west, the valley is the largest protected area in mainland Southeast Asia. The government establishment of the preserve was accomplished in cooperation with the Kachin Independent Army, a rebel group that operates in parts of the area. It is in peace talks with the government, but little progress has been made in recent months.
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