Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Shrinking Habitats in Myanmar: Mapping Major Threats to Elephant Populations

Myanmar has some of the largest undisturbed forests in Asia. Located in the far north, west. and south of the country, these forests may be among the last strongholds for elephants in Asia. However, these areas are also increasingly coming under pressure from human activities.

Agricultural conversion is the main cause of deforestation in Myanmar. The clearing of forest cover effectively increases the frequency and severity of floods, droughts, and landslides. Not only does this lead to degradation of the natural habitat, but logging roads also provide access farther into the wilderness, and into elephant ranges.

Mapping forest areas and deforestation rates can give clues as to the causes of people–elephant conflict. As you can see in the first image, far northwestern Myanmar contains the largest area of heavily forested landscape remaining in the country. However, the second map shows that deforestation rates are highest directly adjacent to this area. Not surprisingly, most conflict is occurring where high deforestation is cutting into forest habitats (last image).