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Chin textiles, gibbons and fire control.

Myanmar is considered a biological marvel, with habitats including tropical reefs, dry and evergreen lowland forests, and the snow-capped mountains and pine-rhododendron forest of the Himalayan foothills. Yet Myanmar’s biological diversity is little known. Political instability within the country has persisted for more than 50 years, eroding the capacity and opportunities for effective conservation efforts.

The PRCF first began working in Myanmar in 2003. We started by providing support to conservation in the Southern Chin Hills by building fire shelters to prevent accidental forest fires at Natmataung National Park. Subsequently, we conducted field research on the possible links between biodiversity and cultural arts conservation at the remote Southern Chin Hills site of Kyauk Pan Taung.

Since then, we have initiated a third initiative: to assess the conservation status of the Hoolock Gibbon throughout the country. This comprehensive review started in 2008, and has recently led to the identification of two sites where good gibbon populations and local support for conservation provide a meaningful opportunity to begin site-based conservation programs.

On the basis of our research-guided initiatives, we operate programs in Myanmar with site-specific activities at three protected area and forest locations.

Despite the many difficulties of working in Myanmar, there is significant local support for conservation of biodiversity and culture, as well as other endeavours proposed by the PRCF. While a full program of activities and engagement with the government is not possible at the present time, we aim to increase knowledge and provide a baseline for more comprehensive activities in the near future. Meanwhile, we are also building the capacity for a new and highly motivated generation of young Burmese interested in the conservation of their natural and cultural heritage.

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