Out of the 7,000 elephants in Myanmar, 2,000 animals live in the wild and 5,000 are in private keeping or belong to state-owned enterprises. About 1,000 of the latter are former working elephants that have become “unemployed” due to export bans and logging restrictions. Since the demand for teak has decreased due to strict environmental regulations, many elephants are not needed anymore to carry heavy tree trunks and help with felling as they did previously. The elephants are therefore often either killed or sold as tourist attractions. That is why FOUR PAWS has decided to build its first ever elephant sanctuary to provide a safe home for these endangered animals in the Bago region of Myanmar.
ELEPHANTS LAKE will encompass an area of 17,000 hectares, which makes it one of the largest elephant sanctuaries in Southeast Asia. Veterinarians and experts will care for former logging elephants as well as injured or orphaned wild elephants. The aim of ELEPHANTS LAKE’s comprehensive rehabilitation program is to bring together new herds and subsequently release the animals into the adjacent North Zar Ma Yi Forest Reserve. The sanctuary will function as rehabilitation centre, orphanage and hospital. It will also provide a permanent home for those elephants that cannot be released back into the wild. The first 6-7 animals are expected to move into the elephant sanctuary by the end of 2018.
Collaboration between government, forestry and NGOs
On 1st May 2018, FOUR PAWS started the construction of ELEPHANTS LAKE. Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry provided the land, while state-owned forestry organisation “Myanmar Timber Enterprise” will place the elephants. Additionally, local NGO “Mingalar Myanmar” will support in communicating with the Oozies, the elephant caretakers who currently look after the logging elephants.
Over the next ten years, FOUR PAWS hopes to rehabilitate up to 300 elephants at ELEPHANTS LAKE.