Narinjara News

Burmese Junta’s Elephant capture Endangers the species to extinction

Maungdaw, 21 February: 
A wild elephant capture drive has been conducted for some time along the Burma  Bangladesh common border, according to our correspondent from the border areas.

The ‘Wild Elephant Capturing through Anaesthesia’ Team from Sandoway under the Burmese State Forest Department has sponsored the wild elephant catching drive beginning January 21.  Led by Veterinary doctors, U Thaung Lwin and U Maung Maung Htin, the team has been carrying out their campaign under the direction of Major Gen. Saw Htwe, the Maungdaw  Buthidaung District Council Chairman.

On 18 February the team fired an anaesthetic shot and captured a five-and-half foot high cow elephant, aged about five years near Taungbro village opposite Gundum Village on Bangladesh side.  The accompanying bull elephant fled the spot as it saw the danger while roaming with the captured cow in the forests.  Meanwhile there are reports of groups of elephants crossing the border to Bangladesh, according to eyewitnesses in the area.

The anaesthesia team have been hunting elephants with tusks, according to another eyewitness.  People in the area demand that, the elephant captors are accompanied by ivory traders from the frontier areas bordering with China

The neighbourhood in which the elephants are hunted is in the Mayu Ranges in the Buthidaung Maungdaw region close to the south-eastern part of Bangladesh.  As the Mayu Ranges are situated on the coastline of the Bay of Bengal and there are green virgin forests there the region has been serving as a happy pasture for the elephants since time immemorial.  With the intrusion of the Burmese junta sponsored elephant-captors, the last expanse of green forests as safe havens for the wild elephants has been seriously affected.  Depleting forests and greenery in Bangladesh and India (up to the Assam Hills) have forced the wild elephants to take long journeys to the area.  Environmentalists in Bangladesh have been watching with rising concern at the sudden increase in intrusion of wild elephants into the Chittagong Hills and adjacent areas, obviously migrating in large herds from across the border, for search of food.  As the food in the wilderness grows scarce every year, the elephants have been forced to come to human habitats and paddy fields.  Last year there were at least four reported human casualties from the attacks of wild elephants in the Bangladesh press.

The environmentalists have shown growing concern at the alarming increase in wild elephants straying into the human habitats in Bangladesh besides reports of wild elephants being killed from landmine blasts while crossing the border. The Burmese army has been laying landmines along its border with Bangladesh.  To all charges of landmine laying the Burmese junta have so far categorically made denials and demanded that the insurgent groups along the common border have been resorting to landmine laying, said a journalist in the Bangladesh press.   With increase in the wild elephant casualties the environmentalists also expressed concern over the survival of the species, already endangered to near extinction. 

Last year two white elephants were caught in the same Mayu Ranges, which were later transported to Rangoon.  The officials and privates engaged in capturing the white elephants have been promoted in rank, which has clearly encouraged the security forces in the area to go for frenetic chase for more elephant captures, said a retired army officer.  This has substantially caused disturbance in the local elephant population, threatening the species into extinction, he concluded.   #