In Burma, ravaged by civil war, trade in protected species explodes

A bird market in Bangkok, in an undated photo.

The pandemic and political instability have given a serious boost to Myanmar’s wildlife trade, he said a report published in early April by the Asia-Pacific section of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The NGO found in this country a virtual doubling of the number of animals for sale on Facebook in 2021 – almost 11,046 (including 96% live animals) – compared to 2020, when a similar study was conducted.

Burma, several regions of which are reservoirs of biodiversity, has already been identified as a hub for the trade in protected wildlife: for years this has been the case with areas close to the Chinese border, controlled by armed militias that crack down on profits. The most famous of these lawless enclaves is Mong La, in the Golden Triangle, on the border with China’s Yunnan: this city of casinos and brothels, where everything is paid for in Chinese currency, has long offered live animals in its markets, as well as all kinds of wild animal, bear or deer products prized by Chinese visitors for their supposedly medicinal or aphrodisiac properties.

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However, the Covid-19 has somewhat disrupted these “wildlife supermarkets”: China’s borders are still hermetically closed, at least to people, and the time of clandestine border crossings is over. In addition, China, whose Wuhan market — whose role is still uncertain but has been involved in the outbreak of the pandemic — has been selling various species of wild animals, has announced a strict ban on the sale, consumption and transportation of wild animals in 2020. animals animals on its territory. This will remain in effect until further notice.

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Furthermore, the military coup of 1er February in Burma overshadowed the efforts of the previous government, that of Aung San Suu Kyi, now imprisoned, to new law on the protection of biodiversity adopted in 2018 and in 2020 reinforced with a total of 90 species “fully protected”† Their sale or possession is heavily sanctioned – except for a small number under a license framed breeding facility. Today, however, the military and police are monopolized by the armed resistance to the coup that set much of the country on fire. Added to this is the corruption and the critical state of the economy, which are conducive to an increase in all types of trade, including drugs, but also trade in rare species.

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