Hornbill in Myanmar Photo
Rufous necked hornbill
©P. O'Shaughnessy
Hukaung Vista Photo
©Tiny Lynam
People in Myanmar Photo
A family in Myanmar where WCS has been working since 1993 as the first international conservation organization to initiate a long-term program.
©Bill Holmstrom

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, conjures images of archetypal Asian jungle: Lush forests dripping with moisture, prowled by tigers, and alive with the trumpeting of elephants. Myanmar’s wildlife include a mix of species from north Asia, south Asia, and southeast Asia, which find shelter in a wide range of habitats throughout the country. Snow-capped and remote Himalayan Mountains crown the north, and serve as the headwaters for some of Myanmar’s major rivers. The rivers flow through wide, central plains and down to mangrove-lined river deltas before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. Along the country’s southern tail, the coastal waters abound with coral reefs amidst more than 800 islands of the Mergui archipelago.

Fast Facts

  • The Northern Forest Complex in northern Myanmar is one of the largest remaining contiguous forests in Southeast Asia and stretches across lowland forests and wetlands, coniferous forests, and snow-covered mountains above the treeline.
  • Myanmar is home to 27 turtle species, 7 of which are endemic, meaning they are exclusively found in this country.


In comparison to some of its neighbors, Myanmar still maintains large areas of natural forest and wetland habitat. Hunting, however, remains a critical threat to Myanmar’s ecosystems. In addition to subsistence pressures, commercial hunting threatens many species, both for local markets and for trade to China. Tigers and turtles are among the species targeted for the wildlife trade.

WCS Responds

In 1993, WCS became the first international conservation organization to initiate a long-term program in Myanmar. We conduct biological surveys, monitor populations of key wildlife species, aid in the establishment of protected areas, and assist protected area staff with landscape management.

A key landscape for WCS is the Northern Forest Complex. These forests contain the remarkable Hukuang Valley—home to tigers, elephants, and other wildlife species, some of which may be new to science. Oxbow lakes and swamps dot the landscape, giving shelter to rare Asian waterbirds. WCS works here with staff of the Hukaung Wildlife Sanctuary and other protected areas on management, research, and biodiversity monitoring.

In the country’s Irrawaddy River, WCS is working to protect the freshwater populations of Irrawaddy dolphins. In 2006, with WCS aid, the government of Myanmar established a protected area in a section of the river to support this endangered species. The dolphins play a special role in local culture, particularly for the area’s fishermen. In a unique tradition, the dolphins voluntarily herd fish into nets, which can increase the size of fishermen’s catch by threefold. The dolphins themselves also benefit by preying on the cornered fish and those that fall out of the nets as the fishermen pull them from the water. The protected area, which spans a 43-mile length of the river, is helping to boost public awareness of the Irrawaddy dolphin and its unique role in the river’s livelihoods.

WCS conservationists also work to protect a number of Myanmar’s endangered endemic turtles, including the Burmese roof terrapin—known only to inhabit a river in the north of the country. WCS is safeguarding the turtle’s nesting beaches and has helped set up a captive breeding colony using animals confiscated from illegal traders.

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.

Rare Glimpse of a Rare Turtle September 3, 2009

WCS scientists discover the Arakan forest turtle, previously known only by museum and captive specimens, in a dense bamboo forest in Myanmar.

Looking for a Good Catch? Ask the Irrawaddy DolphinAugust 4, 2006

A novel partnership between fishermen of the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar and an endangered river dolphin guarantees a good catch for the fishermen. By establishing a protected area along a stretch of the river, the government of Myanmar is helping to safeguard this unique cultural tradition.

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