Northern Forest Complex, Myanmar

Hukaung Vista Photo
WCS recruits local residents as conservation allies through environmental education centers, mobile education teams, and wildlife movie screenings that showcase the Hukaung Valley’s rich wildlife.
©Tony Lynam

Spanning more than 12,000 square miles at the crossroads of India, Myanmar, and China, this vast landscape encompasses four protected areas. It’s one of the region’s largest remaining expanses of natural forest. The remote, unexplored forests are home to a variety of wildlife, including tigers, bears, elephants, gibbons, red pandas, and hornbills. This landscape also contains Myanmar's highest mountain and the headwaters of the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin, the country’s most important river system, sustaining extensive rice farming that supports many local communities.

Fast Facts

  • This landscape encompasses lowland forests and swamps and coniferous forests. Snow-covered mountains soar above the treeline.
  • Several species previously unknown to science have been discovered here in recent years.
  • The region is home to globally important populations of a variety of waterbirds, including white-bellied herons, white-winged ducks, and masked finfoot.


Hunting poses a serious challenge to conservation efforts. Hunters target wild animals both to eat and trade locally, as well as for the international trade—which prizes exotic animal parts like bear paws and tiger skins. In some areas of the region, species like tigers and otters face extinction due to such cross-border trade. Agricultural expansion and gold mining are also threats to the ecosystem, particularly in the Hukaung Valley.

WCS Responds

Since 2002, WCS-Myanmar researchers have been using camera traps to conduct the first-ever scientific population estimate for tigers in northern Myanmar. They also surveyed other smaller, lesser-known carnivores. This work has helped our scientists formulate conservation strategies for the country’s wildlife.

WCS currently works on long-term natural resource management with local communities, balancing human needs with the preservation of the landscape. Training in sustainable land use and community forestry gives local residents the tools to make a living while protecting their natural environment.

WCS recruits local residents as conservation allies through environmental education centers, mobile education teams, and even wildlife movie screenings that showcase the region’s natural treasures. Strong partnerships with the community are an essential part of the quest to protect this marvelous and wild landscape for future generations.

From the Newsroom

In Myanmar, Natural Resources Are Key to Conflict ResolutionAugust 9, 2013

As Myanmar transitions to peace after years of internal conflict, WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper, who visited the country earlier this year, writes on the importance of balancing development with natural resource conservation efforts.

A Valley of TigersAugust 4, 2010

The Myanmar government creates a Protected Tiger Area as large as Vermont in the country's northern forests. The Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve provides sanctuary to a wide range of species, from big cats to small birds, along with many rare plants.

Wild Tiger Report CardFebruary 17, 2010

As the world celebrates the Year of the Tiger, WCS assesses tiger habitat and populations across eight priority landscapes in Asia with a color-coded report.

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