A WWF Myanmar study shows that elephant and wildlife parts are widely sold at Bogyoke Market and Shwedagon Pagoda – popular tourists destinations in Yangon.
According to the study carried out last September, 67 percent of shops in Bogyoke Market and 30pc of shops in Shwedagon Pagoda sell illegal elephant and other wildlife parts.
“The research at Bogyoke Market and Shwedagon Pagoda revealed that most of the traded items were ivory-related and most buyers were from China,” said a WWF Myanmar officer, who wish to remain anonymous.
Accessories made of ivory and elephant bones were mostly found being sold with jade in Bogyoke Market, while in Shwedagon Pagoda, ivory statues and other wildlife items such as combs made of tortoise shells were found.
“Among the four entrances of Shwedagon Pagoda, shops in the southern entrance are selling ivory items. They are not sold openly but if customers ask they will provide these items. In Bogyoke Market, items made of elephant parts are openly sold,” said the officer.
In the past, checks were not carried out at Shwedagon Pagoda as it was a religious place, but according to WWF research, products made of wildlife parts are sold at shops on the pagoda stairways.
“We will discuss with the shopkeepers to stop the trading but if they still continue and are found guilty during our inspections we will take action,” she said.
Currently, illegal wildlife trading is prohibited in many countries, and Myanmar’s neighbour China officially prohibited wildlife trading on February 1.
As China clamps down on the illegal trade, the wildlife market could become bigger in Myanmar, cautioned WWF Myanmar.
“Everything, including wildlife and plants, are lost because of China. Now, China has prohibited trading of wildlife and that market could shift to Myanmar, and that is dangerous for our country’s future,” added the officer.
The Forest Department and international agencies engaged in anti-wildlife trafficking are carrying out aggressive campaigns nationwide to stop the crime – like creating awareness programmes, poster campaigns and conducting surprise checks at toll gates, restaurants and shops, where illegal wildlife products may be sold.
“There was less action in the past. Now, we are telling restaurants not to sell wildlife dishes.
“We will inform the public as well, and if they break the law, we will take action,” said Daw Khin Thida Tun, officer of the Yangon Region Forest Department.