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Village leader among 7 nabbed for elephant poaching

One of seven poaching suspects poses with two bolt-action rifles confiscated by police in Taikkyi township.

A group of alleged elephant poachers including a local village official were detained in Rangoon Division’s Taikkyi township in connection with the recent killing of an elephant, local law enforcement told DVB.

Police deputy superintendent Hlaing Win Tun in Taikkyi’s Okkan town said six suspects including the administrator of Chaungsauk village were first brought into custody on 1 December for alleged involvement in the killing of a young elephant, the severed head of which was found in a local creek three weeks ago. Based on their tip-off, police on 4 December detained another suspect along with two bolt-action rifles and some dried elephant meat in nearby Kyaukpyintha village.

The suspects are facing charges under the Law on Protection of Wildlife and Conservation of Natural Areas, lodged against them by the Forest Department, as well as the colonial-era Arms Act.

Under the 1994 conservation law, elephants are listed as a fully protected species and endangering or illegally capturing elephants is a serious crime punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Burma is home to a population of between 4,000 and 5,000 elephants and has the largest population of captive Asian elephants, mainly used in logging. Responding to a question in the Lower House last month regarding protection of elephants, Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Minister Ohn Win said the ministry was considering a total ban on capturing wild elephants for logging as the country is reducing timber production in a bid to conserve its forests.

Between 2015 and 2016, nine elephants including one fitted with a GPS collar were found dead and skinned, with their tusks and other body parts missing, in Taikkyi township. Meanwhile, wild elephants roaming into human settlements and rampaging across farmlands have been a significant threat to locals in the area, who say there have been on average three deaths caused by elephants annually over the past few years.

One of the most recent incidents was in September, when a man was trampled to death by a wild elephant at night near his farm in the Magari forest reserve.