Nature Ramble

Viewpoint: Why Burma’s forests must be preserved

An early morning boat journey from base camp in search of a herd of elephants in Taung Lay

For the first time in more than 50 years, a team of wildlife film-makers has been permitted to venture deep into Burma’s barely penetrable jungles. The expedition’s insect expert, Ross Piper, explains why the country’s forests are special and, in his view, deserve protection.

Closed to outsiders for five decades, Burma, also known as Myanmar, is something of an unknown quantity, particularly in terms of its natural riches.

The country is right in the centre of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, one of the most biologically important regions of the planet. We know there are still large areas of good quality forest in Burma, which could be among the last real strongholds for a huge range of species.

Beyond simply supporting a dazzling variety of life, we have to remember that vast forests like these, often thousands of miles away, are crucial to every one of us, not least because they help to stabilise the climate and maintain the water cycle.

A wild Asian elephant herd was found resting in the shade of a valley in Burma

I was lucky enough to be part of a BBC Natural History Unit/Smithsonian Institution expedition to document the wildlife of this long-isolated country and shed some light on the state of its forests.


This expedition couldn’t have been more timely because as the country slowly opens up, its Asian neighbours and developed nations alike are scrambling to establish diplomatic relations, many of whom would ultimately like to take advantage of Burma’s natural wealth.


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