June 6 (UPI) — High demand for elephant skin is threatening the survival of the animals in Myanmar, the World Wildlife Fund says.
Poachers in the Southeast Asian country have turned to slaughtering the animals for their skin as the ivory trade dwindled under pressure from wildlife conservation advocates.
There are about 1,400-2,000 wild elephants in Myanmar, according to Coconuts Yangon.
The number of the animals being killed has doubled in recent months. Male, female and baby elephants are being targeted for their skin, which buyers believe bring the wearer good luck when it is worn like jewelry, the report states.
The illegal ivory tusk trade, by contrast, singles out male elephants.
“Asian elephants are already facing tremendous challenges across their range,” said Nilanga Jayasinghe, the World Wildlife Fund’s senior program officer for the animals. “Adding to those is this new trend that we are seeing in Myanmar of herds being indiscriminately poached for their skin. It is extremely alarming.”
Christy Williams, country director of WWF Myanmar, said there has been a rapid surge in the “skin trade fad,” which has “been driven by growing Asia-based demand, compounded by weak law enforcements and fueled by borderless illegal syndicates operating across Southeast Asia.”
A lack of resources for training local authorities to guard against poachers was cited as a cause for the outbreak of poaching in the country.