Yangon, Myanmar – WWF opened its new Myanmar office November 1 in an event that highlighted the country’s vast natural capital, its efforts to develop a green economy and its diverse species such as tigers, elephants and Irrawaddy dolphins. The event featured representatives of Myanmar’s Government, Ambassadors and diplomats, local and international NGOs, foundations and members of the business community.
Former Myanmar Ambassador to the US and Presidential Advisor H.E. U Than Swe spoke about the importance of protecting Myanmar’s biodiversity and the need to work together to tackle major challenges like illegal wildlife trade and deforestation. “WWF’s contributions are vitally important for us,” he said. “I appreciate and thank all of your colleagues here today for your interest and technical cooperation and your generous efforts to help Myanmar. I wish all your staff well for your successful mission.”
“It is a rare, historic and humbling moment for WWF to begin working in a country so richly endowed with biodiversity and so committed to becoming a global model for the protection of nature,”” said Naresh Ramaswamy, WWF-Myanmar’s Interim Country Director.
The event featured a ribbon cutting and tree planting at WWF’s new office in Yangon. Maps and images were on display highlighting Myanmar’s rich biodiversity. The country is home to three of Earth’s most pristine rivers (Irrawaddy, Salween and Mekong), at least 250 mammal species and more than 1,000 bird species. Its forests are some of the most extensive and intact in Southeast Asia and it has huge potential for tiger recovery.
“It’s a privilege to be here in Myanmar,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF-US. “At WWF, we believe in conservation of the people, by the people and for the people. We believe in Myanmar. This is one of the most important places in the world for conservation. We are gratified to be here to support the government and local partners and communities in their conservation efforts. And we will be here as long as needed. Now, with the opening of our office, it’s time for us to get to work.”
“Together with WWF, I know that we can make a positive influence on the choices for a better future -- a future in which Myanmar has protected its wildlife and its natural resources and by doing so, ensured sustainable resources for the health and wellbeing of its people,” said Trustee John Codey of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, a major supporter of WWF and its partners in Myanmar.
Myanmar and its biodiversity face many challenges, from illegal wildlife trade to forest loss and the impacts of land conversion and mining. In recent years, driven largely by a massive increase in infrastructure investment, the scale and intensity of many of these threats has grown.
However, the Government of Myanmar has stated its commitment to developing a green economy – one that will serve as a global model of how to improve the economy and livelihoods of a country’s citizens while protecting its natural capital. WWF has committed to working closely with the Government and all stakeholders to realize that vision. WWF is also working with government and local partners on conservation initiatives in the Tanintharyi on the border with Thailand -- an area of exceptionally high biodiversity.
“Based on our 25 years of experience in neighbouring Greater Mekong countries, overall the number one lesson is, if you have a country with a genuine interest in conservation, where that is not only reflected in the culture but also in the political will, you can do great things for the environment – together we can do great things for this nation,” said Stuart Chapman, WWF Representative for the Greater Mekong.