Endangered species refer to animals or plants who are facing the danger of extinction. Sometimes animals can become endangered due to natural causes such as drought or flooding. However, in most cases it is as a result of human activities such as forest fires, pollution, wildlife trade, urban settlements, and overgrazing. Many species in Myanmar are currently designated as critically endangered. These species include the fish-eating crocodile, sumatran rhinoceros and white-bellied heron.
The Myanmar Critically Endangered Species
The fish-eating crocodile, also scientifically known as Gavialis gangeticas, is the only surviving member of the Gavialidae family in Myanmar. It is a unique species of crocodile as it is the only one that is sexually dimorphic. The fish-eating crocodile has a breeding life of 50 years and a life span of 100 years. It is characterized by its long thin jaw, an elongated narrow snout and an average size that ranges from eleven to fifteen feet. It weighs between 159 and 181 kilograms. The crocodile is threatened by illegal poachers who seek to use its long jaw and eggs for medicinal purposes. The use of nets by farmers also leads to them being trapped. Once trapped, they are unable to open their mouths in the nets which can lead to death.
The Sumatran rhinoceros, scientifically known as Dicerorhinus sumatrensi, has experienced severe declines of over 80% within three generations. It is one of the critically endangered species in Myanmar. The Sumatran rhinoceros is a shy species which only goes far from the protected areas in search of either salt licks or water. They have a longevity of 35-40 years. The main cause of their decreasing numbers is over-hunting of the rhino’s horns and other body parts for medicinal purposes.
The white-bellied heron, scientifically called Ardea insignis, is mostly dark grey in color with a white throat and underparts. Its population has been dropping severely due to disturbance of its habitat and degradation of the riverside or wetland habitats. The white-bellied heron is 127 cm high making it the second largest heron on earth, after the Goliath heron. It is estimated that there are only 250 white-bellied herons in the world. It is therefore justified to have it on the 2007 IUCN Red List under the critically endangered species.
Efforts to protect the endangered species
There are several efforts that are being put in place in order to protect Myanmar's endangered species. One of them is the Gharial Breeding Center set up in Chitwan which seeks to multiply the number of fish-eating crocodiles as much as possible. Secondly, Myanmar has benefited from the Indian Ocean – South-East Asian (IOSEA) technical support program. This is a program which engages in capacity building by giving lectures and practical training of people in the Departments of Fisheries and Forestry in the Asian countries. Another way of protecting the endangered species has been through the inclusion of the sumatran rhinocerous on the CITES Appendix I. This makes it legally protected in all states. There are also ongoing efforts focused on developing managed breeding centres for the species. Lastly, there also exists a Myanmar Biodiversity initiative which brings together both the locals and international efforts towards nature conservation in Myanmar.