Myanmar’s wild elephant population is in danger. The population of elephants in the wild is thought to have been halved from 2000-3000 in the past decade along, and according to the Myanmar government, poaching has jumped tenfold. Largely, poachers are driven by a growing demand for ivory, hide, and body parts. While we are all familiar with the
While we are all familiar with the illegal ivory trade, there is a new skin cure fad that has risen in Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also known as Golden Rock, a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site located in Mon State, Myanmar. Just steps away from souvenir kiosks lies what has become one of the key hubs in the $20 billion a year global wildlife trade. Hidden in plain site, black market vendors in Kyaitiyo Pagoda openly display endangered animal parts for sale, ranging from ivory and tiger parts and rhino horn to sun bear paws. Among those vendors, a new fad is pulling in followers of traditional medicines: dried elephant skin.
At the largest black market in Southeast Asia, elephant skin is being sold for the price of K5000 (US$3.65) per square inch — a meager price for the life of one of these gentle giants.
According to Myanmar Times, one anonymous vendor talked to the AFP about the supposed benefits of using dried elephant skin: “Elephant’s skin can cure skin diseases like eczema. You burn pieces of skin by putting them in a clay pot. Then you get the ash and mix it with coconut oil to apply on the eczema.” Another vendor claimed that the same “treatment” would cure pimples and remove black spots. Your face will be smooth and white after you use it.” Is there any truth to these claims? Unlikely, but the myths surrounding traditional medicine are so strong they have led to the demise of countless species.
While Myanmar’s government has attempted to crack down on the black market in Kyaittiyo Pagoda, vendors are often able to learn about the raids ahead of time and have time to hide genuine animal parts from view. According to Antony Lynam, regional adviser at the Wildlife Conservation Society, “We’re in the middle of a crisis. If we’re losing this number it can’t be too many more years before wild elephants are gone.”
To help save elephant populations Myanmar’s government recently announced the launch of new efforts to crack down on poaching by initiating new research on how best to resolve human-wildlife conflict that arises as a result of territory encroachment. They are also working to educate citizen on how they can help contribute to habitat preservation efforts. According to Myanmar Times, “Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] has set up a wildlife enforcement network to stop trafficking and seizures of endangered animal products have been on the rise.” Hopefully, their efforts, along with China’s recent ban on ivory trade, will have a positive impact on elephant populations.
If you want to help put an end to this cruel and ridiculous fad of elephant skin care, share this article. The more people who know about the impact of this trade the better. When the buying stops, so can the killing!
Lead image source: Visanuwit thongon/Shutterstock