Community-based Conservation of Asian Elephants in Rakhine Yoma
The 175,000-ha Rakhine Yoma Elephant Sanctuary lies in the heart of the Rakhine Yoma Priority Corridor, which lies inland along the Bay of Bengal coast, from the international border with Bangladesh to the Ayeyarwaddy Delta. It constitutes a large, contiguous block of lowland semi-evergreen, evergreen, and mixed deciduous forest.
The Rakhine Yoma Elephant Sanctuary lies at the heart of one of Myanmar’s two largest elephant ranges. It is also home to important populations of Hoolock gibbon, gaur, and the Critically Endangered endemic Arakan forest turtle, which was believed extinct (last seen in 1908) but was rediscovered in 1994.
The major threat to the region’s wildlife is posed by Chin ethnic minorities who have migrated south into Rakhine State over the past 100 years. They hunt in teams of 6-7 accompanied by 9-12 dogs for up to four weeks at a time using spears to kill gaur and other large mammals. They are proud of their forest skills and would make excellent rangers.
Household surveys show that the Chin hunt to buy rice and pay school fees. The goal of this project is to negotiate agreements with the Chin that exchange livelihood support for a commitment to stop hunting and instead monitor the region’s wildlife with particular focus on elephants and the Arakan forest turtle. The first agreement, signed in October 2007, included the provision of rice supplements, salary supplements for two teachers, and support for a community plantation forest. A second agreement was signed in November 2008.