Globally Threatened Species of Myanmar
A significant number of the plant and animal species that occur in Myanmar have been assessed as globally threatened, following the global threat criteria of IUCN/SSC (1994). However, in the Indo-Myanmar (Indo-Burma) Hotspot, comprehensive global threat assessments are only available for mammals, birds, amphibians and some groups of reptiles. Baseline data on species diversity in Myanmar is incomplete for most, if not all, major taxonomic groups, and the available data of the current status of the country’s diversity is mainly the globally threatened species that are currently listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species version 2015.
In 2015, forty-six globally threatened non-marine mammal species have been recorded in Myanmar (IUCN 2011). Globally threatened non-marine mammal species of Myanmar included two endemic species: Anthony’s Pipistrelle and Joffre’s Pipistrelle. Myanmar also supports an endemic sub-species of Eld’s Deer (Cervus eldii thamin) (endangered). This subspecies, which is known as Thamin, occurs in the Central Dry Zone (McShea et al. 1998, Wemmer 1998). Myanmar also supports a large number of globally threatened species with wide distributions in the Indo-Myanmar (Indo-Burma) Hotspot and elsewhere, including endangered species of Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) and Tiger (Panthera tigris), and vulnerable species of Gaur (Bos gaurus), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), Dhole (Cuon alpinus) and Himalayan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus). Most of these species are mainly threatened by subsistence hunting in Myanmar, as elsewhere.
High mountains in northern Myanmar support a number of mammal species, which are characteristic of the Eastern Himalayas, including vulnerable species of Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), Takin (Budorcas taxicolor) and Red Goral (Naemorhedus baileyi). For most of these species, the current population status in Myanmar is poorly known and comprehensive population surveys should be given a high priority.
A few globally threatened mammal species recorded in Myanmar have not been confirmed to occur in the country in recent years, including Lesser One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and Hairy Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), both are critically endangered species, and field surveys are required to conclude whether these species are still existing in their habitats of Myanmar. While Tiger has been the major focus of the national status survey, it is also required to conduct national level surveys for other mammal species, as it is possible that populations of some or all of these species may persist in Myanmar.
10 primate species of Myanmar are included in IUCN Red List of threatened species of 2011: Four species belong to endangered status and the remaining six are under the vulnerable status In addition to wild populations, Myanmar owns one of the largest captive Asian Elephant herds in the world, with almost 3,000 animals managed by the government and by private owners. These animals represent a major workforce, especially for timber extraction in forestry sector. It has been estimated that there are approximately 3,000 wild elephants in Myanmar’s forests. In recent years, there has been concern that live-capture, although prohibited by law, may have had a significant impact on the remaining wild Asian Elephant populations.
Thirty-six globally threatened bird species have been detected in Myanmar in 2010 (IUCN 2011; Annex 3). A large proportion of these species are characteristic of forest ecosystems; most major forest types support a suite of globally threatened species. Hill and temperate forests are important for a number of globally threatened passerines, including endangered species of White-browed Nuthatch (Sitta victoriae), vulnerable species of Beautiful Nuthatch (Sitta formosa) and Giant Nuthatch (S. magna) and vulnerable species of Blyth’s Tragopan (Tragopan blythii). These forests also support important population of vulnerable species of Rufous-necked Hornbill (Aceros nipalensis). Lowland semi-evergreen mixed deciduous and deciduous dipterocarp forests support important population of critically endangered species of White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis) and endangered species of Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus); a species that has undergone dramatic declines across much of mainland Southeast Asia (BirdLife International 2001). Lowland wet evergreen forests in southern Myanmar support a number of globally threatened bird species, including endangered species of Gurney’s Pitta (Pitta gurneyi) and vulnerable species of Plain-pouched Hornbill (Aceros subruficollis). For most globally threatened bird species, which are characteristic of forest habitats, habitat loss due to unwise resource utilization is the main threat. Furthermore, over-exploitation is also a major threat to a number of larger-bodied species, including hornbills, galliforms and pigeons.
Many of Myanmar’s globally threatened bird species are characteristic of wetland ecosystems, including some of the most threatened bird species in the country. A number of these species are characteristic of coastal habitats, such as Spotted Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) (Endangered). However, the majority are characteristic of freshwater habitats, including endangered species of White-winged Duck (Cairina scutulata), and Masked Finfoot (Heliopais personata) and vulnerable species of Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis). Across the Indo-Myanmar (Indo-Burma) Hotspot, wetland ecosystems generally receive less conservation investment, and are under higher levels of threat than forest ecosystems. Myanmar supports some of the best examples of these ecosystems remaining in the hotspot, most notably: networks of flowing and non-flowing wetlands within lowland forest; wide, slow-flowing, lowland rivers; and mangrove. Myanmar’s globally threatened bird species also include critically endangered species of Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus), a migratory shore bird mainly occur in Gulf of Mottama. In addition to forest and wetland ecosystems, open country ecosystems are also important for globally threatened bird species, including critically endangered vulture species such as Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus). The populations of these species in Myanmar are of high global conservation significance. It is because these species do not appear to be affected by the factors, mainly toxicity from the veterinary pharmaceutical diclofenac (Oaks et al. 2004), which are responsible for the precipitous decline of vulture populations in the Indian Sub-continent over the last decade (BirdLife International 2001, Pain et al. 2003,). Globally threatened species, characteristic of open country habitats, are facing a number of threats, including disturbance on habitats, and use of agrochemicals. A number of globally threatened bird species recorded in Myanmar in the past have not been confirmed to occur in the country in recent years. These include vulnerable species of Jerdon’s Babbler (Chrysomma albirostre), a species that is the characteristic of tall riverine grasslands in Pakistan, Nepal, northern Indian and, at least previously in Myanmar, where this species has not been recorded since 1941; and critically endangered species of Pink-headed Duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllacea), one of the most enigmatic bird species in the world, which previously inhabited secluded wetlands and marshes in the forests and grasslands of northern Myanmar and northern India, and there have been no confirmed records from Myanmar since 1910 or from anywhere in its range since 1949 (BirdLife International 2001, 2003). Though no recent record has been reported for the existence of Pink-headed Duck, the upper section of the Chindwin River plus several of its major tributaries, such as the Tanai, Tawang and Palaunglanbum Rivers are supposed to be the last frontier for the Pink-headed Duck as its occurance has been reported by local people (U Htin Hla verbally 2004 cited in BirdLife International 2005).
Twenty-four globally threatened reptile species have been recorded in Myanmar in 2010, most of them are turtles (IUCN 2011; Annex 1). As elsewhere in Asia, the distribution and habitat requirements of most turtle species in Myanmar are still little known. Most recent records of these species are obtained from wildlife markets. The main threat to wild populations is over-exploitation, driven in most cases by the high value of turtles in the wildlife trade. Most turtle species have naturally slow reproductive rates, and consequently, the turtle species may not be able to sustain its population under the high levels of exploitation. There is an urgent need to identify and secure wild populations of all globally threatened turtle species in the country. Comprehensive global threat assessments have not been conducted for other reptile taxa occurring in Myanmar. A global reptile assessment conducted by IUCN-Species Survival Committee (SSC) is not yet available for Myanmar. Nevertheless, Myanmar is likely to support a greater number of globally threatened reptile species than that are currently recognized by IUCN Red List of Threatened Species ver. 2011.
None of the amphibian species in Myanmar have been assessed as globally threatened species by IUCN Red List of Threatened Species ver. 2011. However four amphibian species, all frogs, have been identified as near threatened status and their populations are decreasing (IUCN 2011). These species are Limnonectes blythii (Giant Asian River Frog), Bufo pageoti, Glyphoglossus molossus and Nanorana arnoldi. The apparent lack of globally threatened amphibian species from Myanmar may reflect low levels of survey effort rather than the true conservation status of Myanmar’s amphibians. A number of globally threatened species may occur but remain unrecorded to date. Further research and surveys may reveal that the country supports a number of endemic species that qualify as globally threatened. Collections made by the Myanmar Herpetological Survey are thought to contain a number of undescribed amphibian species and await further analysis.
Similar to other species groups in Myanmar, there is also a need for a comprehensive global threat assessment of fish species in order to identify global conservation priorities in Myanmar. The fish diversity of Myanmar’s non-marine habitats is seriously threatened by destructive fishing practices, dam construction, pollution and invasive species. A number of fish species may be threatened with global extinction, particularly among the fauna of Inlay Lake, which is extremely sensitive and supports national endemic. To date, however, no fish species confirmed to occur in non-marine habitats in Myanmar have been assessed as globally threatened.
In the absence of comprehensive global threat assessments of invertebrate taxa in Myanmar, it is difficult to identify taxonomic priorities for global invertebrate conservation in the country. Only a single invertebrate species found in Myanmar has been assessed as globally threatened: Andaman Crow Euploea andamanensis. This butterfly species is endemic to the Andaman archipelago, and occurs on Myanmar’s Table and Cocos islands.
Global threat assessments have only been conducted for a small proportion of Myanmar’s plant species, principally gymnosperms and certain angiosperm families. 43 plant species recorded in Myanmar have been assessed as globally threatened (IUCN 2011). All the globally threatened angiosperms are trees, and over two thirds are members of the Dipterocarpaceae. The globally threatened gymnosperms comprise the vulnerable species of Cycas siamensis, Calocedrus macrolepis, Cephalotaxus mannii and Taiwania cryptomerioides, and endangered species of Picea farreri. The major threats to globally threatened plant species in Myanmar are degradation and loss of forest due to unsustainable resource extraction. Species with a high economic value are also threatened by over-exploitation, such species consists of Aquilaria malaccensis (vulnerable), and a source of an aromatic non-timber forest product (NTFP) called agarwood.