Burma/Myanmar has become a global hotspot for economic development initiatives and resource extraction as Asia’s ‘final frontier’ emerges from decades of military rule, ethnic political conflict and economic stagnation. Burma’s new military-backed government led by President U Thein Sein has initiated a series of reforms backed by a neoliberal legal environment to promote foreign investment to kick-start their national economy.
While the reforms have brought much applauded greater political freedoms, the Burmese government is overly relying upon their natural resource base (hydropower, mining, oil/gas, agribusiness) to achieve national economic growth, which will certainly bring significant new drivers of habitat destruction.
The new political, economic and security situation in Burma introduces new opportunities for as well as threats to conservation. In Karen state, a world-renown biodiversity hotspot and home to endemic and critically endangered wildlife species of global conservation priority we have the rare opportunity to intervene at a point where these species can be conserved in uncompromised habitat.
The Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative was developed to formalise a partnership between the KNU, KFD and local and foreign NGOs and to provide a framework for implementing scientifically sound and immediately effective conservation strategies in this region.
The current objectives and community led approach is determined by the Karen people, based on their existing plans for wildlife sanctuaries and community forests, their knowledge of the area, ability to work within this extremely challenging environment, and their commitment to conserve wildlife to protect their way of life, as well as global biodiversity.