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In photos:

In photos: Roaming the Dawna Range

19 Dec 2018

Keywords

  • land management
  • forests
  • forestry
  • rangers
  • tigers

The tropical mountain and forest landscape of the Dawna Range provides vital habitat for an array of wildlife, including tigers. But this magical part of the world is under increasing pressure from outside influences…


Rapid development is threatening to push this landscape to the brink of destruction, with growing pressure from illegal logging and poaching.


Earlier this year, WWF-Australia staff Owen Wareham, Supporter Engagement Manager, and Tim Cronin, Senior Manager Species Conservation, took a trip to the mountainous Dawna Tenasserim Landscape (DTL) on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. WWF staff are working with locals to conserve this critically important landscape.


We’re going behind the scenes with Owen to look at what it takes to conserve one of the last wilderness strongholds for Southeast Asia’s wild tigers.

 

Aerial view of Tanintharyi river and mountain landscape, Myanmar © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus

The Dawna Tenasserim Landscape is pretty spectacular. And one of the best ways to get through it is by a fast-flowing river through mountainous jungle terrain. This landscape is home to around 250 of the 800 tigers that remain in Southeast Asia, as well as countless other wildlife species. The forests are also home to the identity and spiritual values of indigenous communities that live there.

WWF staff riding down the Tanintharyi River, Myanmar, before collecting samples from the river for DNA testing © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus

The most efficient way to travel through the region is in long-tailed boats. In this case, Tim and I headed down one of the major rivers of southeastern Myanmar, the Tanintharyi River which flows through the Tanintharyi Region, past the town of Tanintharyi before eventually reaching the Andaman Sea at Myeik.

WWF staff enjoying the ride on the Tanintharyi River, Myanmar, before collecting samples from the river for DNA testing © WWF-Aus / Owen Wareham

On a trip like this, you grab sleep where you can get it, as shown here with Tim grabbing a quick nap. Meanwhile, the spectacular intact terrain that’s home to tigers, elephants and other charismatic species, keeps rolling by. Ancient human civilizations have risen and fallen in this landscape, and the area is still home to diverse ethnic groups who have thrived here for centuries.

WWF-Myanmar staff and wildlife officer Zinma, collecting samples from the stream flowing into the Tanintharyi River in Myanmar for DNA testing © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus

On this trip, WWF-Myanmar was collaborating with the Karen Forest Department on wildlife monitoring. Part of this joint effort was helping to collect eDNA samples taken from waters of the Tanintharyi River so we could test them to find out exactly what animals might live along which parts of the river.

A Karen National Union’s (KNU) Forestry Department ranger patrolling the forest of the Tanintharyi division in Myanmar © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus

Meeting the rangers of the Wildlife Protection Units (WPUs) was such a privilege. Being a wildlife ranger on the front line is so challenging and poses many risks. Right now, incredibly, WPUs are outnumbered by poachers.


While we struggled a little with the language barrier, this much was clear - these ranger’s take their work very seriously and they’re passionate about protecting this forest so it can thrive. But as well as investigating illegal activity and removing hundreds of tiger traps each year, rangers also help local communities to live in harmony with tigers by ensuring their livelihoods don’t damage the big cat’s habitat.


With the help of generous supporters, WWF-Australia is helping to fund more rangers and equip them to protect tigers from poaching.

A Karen National Union’s (KNU) Forestry Department rangers setting up a camera trap / sensor camera in the Dawna Tenasserim Landscape © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus

We saw first hand the complexities of the rangers’ work which includes conducting surveys and retrieving remote sensor cameras that collect data used to identify and track wildlife. It helps give population baselines for tigers and other species. With their local knowledge of the forests, these wildlife rangers are the perfect choice to save the rare tigers that roam the Dawna Tenasserim Landscape.


The personal experience of travelling through this wild and beautiful part of the world, seeing the pressure the communities, the tigers, other species and the forests are under, was a real awakening. To stay wild the Dawna Tenasserim Landscape needs our protection.

© Shutterstock / PhotocechCZ / WWF

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