People and the Forests of Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar

Dry forest loss at Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary since 1974

Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) in Myanmar (Burma) protects the largest population of the endangered Eld's deer left in the world. It also represents one of the largest remaining patches of dipterocarp forest—a dry forest that is one of the most threatened and least protected forest types globally. Local people rely on these forests for their livelihood. The forests provide wood, food, shelter, and medicine. Restricting people’s access to these forests by declaring them protected is probably not a sustainable solution and will put greater burden on lower income households potentially increasing poverty. However, if people continue to use and abuse forests unregulated they will disappear and with them the Eld’s deer and many other species.

Conservation Strategies
To develop conservation strategies that protect Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary but allow people to use some resources for their livelihood, we conducted extensive socio-economic and attitude surveys in the surrounding villages. Our surveys of 784 people in 28 villages demonstrate that preventing low-income villagers from using forest products will cause significant hardship. However, fuelwood collection is unsustainable and should be a top priority for developing mitigation strategies. These strategies need to focus on reducing demand for fuelwood by using more efficient stoves and developing alternative fuel sources.