The Southern Forest Complex is located in the southern part of Myanmar, and features a long coast facing the Andaman sea on the west, and the Taninthayi range on the east. The region comprises tropical rain forests inhabiting globally endangered species like Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus). Moreover, Taninthayi range connects with the internationally well-known forest complex namely Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM) and Kaeng Krachan National Park in western Thailand. Altogether this region represents a large forest complex that must be given high priority for trans-boundary conservation actions between Myanmar and Thailand.
- Conduct targeted biodiversity and habitat surveys and assessments along Myanmar’s coast;
- Design and deliver a participatory, multi-sector National Marine Spatial Planning process;
- Assess near-shore and offshore fisheries legislation and practices to inform fisheries governance reform;
- Enable fisheries co-management planning and implementation;
- Design, implement and test innovative financing and market-based fisheries conservation and restoration models;
- Secure a comprehensive Marine Protected Area network;
- Co-design mechanisms for robust environmental sensitivity mapping, response planning and Environmental Impact Assessments appraisals;
- Design marine species protection strategies, including for sharks, rays, turtles and dugong; and,
- Support national capacity for marine research and conservation.
Furthermore, about 600 kilometers of coastline edged with mangrove forests allows for a considerable variety of biodiversity, including marine species such as sea turtles and cetacean species such as whales and dugong. High diversity of coral reefs can also be found in the waters of Myeik Archipelago.
The most severe threat impacting on this landscape and its biodiversity is land grabbing for mass agricultural plantations, particularly oil palm and rubber. Infrastructure development is also jeopardizing the area as a Special Economic Zone is going to be implemented in Dawei, and consequently a road link to Thailand is being built cutting through pristine rainforests inhabited by globally endangered species such as tapir, elephants and several panther species. Unregulated mining with no environmental impact assessment and mitigation is also a key issue in the depletion and contamination of water sources. The marine ecosystems of coastal waters are facing increasing pressure from overfishing, especially with trawling and dynamite techniques.
The Wildlife Conservation Society has long been active in the Southern Forest Complex, with a particular focus on the Myintmoletkhet Key Biodiversity Area in Dawei District, which is a high priority conservation target area in the Taninthayi region. WCS provides support to government agencies and promotes a participatory approach to landscape level land-use planning. We advocate the establishment of a Community Based Conservation Corridor along the Myintmoletkhet range. We support local communities to be able to conduct biological monitoring surveys within their traditional village boundaries, within or around protected areas.
In implementing our landscape conservation activities, WCS emphasizes a multi-stakeholder participatory approach. This results - for example - in the cooperation with the Environmental Conservation Department of the Forestry Ministry in our education and awareness raising activities. Additionally, WCS provides a GIS geo-mapping support task-force in support to local government agencies and local civil society organizations.