In Burma plagued by civil war, the trafficking of protected species is exploding

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The pandemic and political instability have given a serious boost to the wildlife trade in Burma, according to 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 offered for sale on Facebook in 2021 – nearly 11,046 (including 96% live animals) – compared to 2020, when a similar survey had been conducted.

Burma, several regions of which are reservoirs of biodiversity, is already identified as a hub for the trafficking of protected wild animals: this has been the case for years with areas close to the Chinese border, under the control of armed militias who are harsh on the gain. The most famous of these lawless enclaves is Mong La, in the Golden Triangle, on the border with Chinese Yunnan: this city of casinos and brothels, where everything is paid for in Chinese currency, has long offered on its markets live animals, but also all kinds of products from wild animals, bears or deer prized for their supposedly curative or aphrodisiac virtues by Chinese visitors.

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However, the Covid-19 has somewhat disrupted these “wildlife supermarkets”: the Chinese borders are still hermetically sealed, at least to people, and the time for clandestine border crossings is over. In addition, China, whose Wuhan market – whose role is still uncertain but which has been implicated in the emergence of the pandemic – sold several types of wild animals, decreed, in 2020, a strict ban on the sale, consumption and transport of wild animals throughout its territory. This will remain in effect until further notice.

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Furthermore, the military coup of 1er February in Burma has overshadowed the efforts of the previous government, that of Aung San Suu Kyi, now imprisoned, to implement a new law on the protection of biodiversity adopted in 2018 and reinforced in 2020 with a total of 90 species “completely protected”. Their sale or possession is heavily sanctioned – except for a small number within the framework of a breeding framed by licenses. However, the army and the police are today monopolized by the armed resistance against the coup d’etat which set fire to a good part of the country. To which are added corruption and the critical state of the economy, conducive to an upsurge in trafficking of all kinds, including that of drugs, but also the trade in rare species.

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