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Last Updated: Monday, 29 March, 2004, 20:42 GMT 21:42 UK
Burma creates huge tiger reserve
Tiger
The expanded reserve could sustain more than 1,000 tigers
The Burmese government has given the go-ahead for the creation of the world's largest tiger reserve.

The move will see the existing Hukawng Valley reserve - in the country's northern Kachin state - treble in area to over 20,000 sq km (7,700 sq miles).

It has delighted conservationists, who were alarmed when a 2003 survey revealed only 150 to 200 tigers were left.

But they say work must now be done to train rangers and stamp out the lucrative trade in tiger body parts.

"I never would have dared think we could protect this much land," Alan Rabinowitz, director of the science and exploration programme at the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, told the Myanmar Times.

"When it's properly protected, the area has the potential to hold by far the largest number of tigers in any one place in the world," he said.

Mr Rabinowitz worked with Burma's Forest Department in 2003 to put in place a network of infra-red-triggered camera traps which snapped pictures of the tigers as they hunted.

By painstakingly identifying each tiger from its picture, they were able to come up with a worrying census of only 150 to 200 remaining tigers.

The new reserve should be able to hold up to 10 times that amount, he said.

"What is even more impressive is that the additional lands adjoin three other wildlife protected zones that spread from the lowlands of Myanmar (Burma) northward to the Tibetan border and are contiguous with similar zones in India," Mr Rabinowitz said in another interview, with National Geographic.

That means the total area of adjoining wildlife conservation zones will reach over 30,000 sq km - about the same size as Belgium.

Tiger temptation

The reserve is also home to many other species, including Asian elephants, Asiatic black bears, wild boar, and sambar deer - a frequent prey for tigers.

But much more remains to be done, says Mr Rabinowitz.

Rangers are needed to enforce the ban on poaching tigers - and new avenues of income will have to be found for local people so they do not succumb to the temptation to profit from the growing regional demand for tiger products.

"It is a serious factor," Mr Rabinowitz said.

"At $200 per kilo, the profits from even a small tiger could be equivalent to 10 years of income for many in this area.

"There is enormous pressure to hunt when people hear about the sighting of a tiger."

Tiger skins, heads and claws are often prized as trophies, while bones and internal organs are used in Asian medicines.

China is the largest market for the trade.


SEE ALSO:
Hunters 'threaten Sumatran tiger'
16 Mar 04  |  Science/Nature
Tiger saved from poachers' snare
11 Mar 04  |  Science/Nature
Country profile: Burma
13 Nov 03  |  Country profiles


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