Wildlife Trade Booming in Burmese Casino Town

Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
February 28, 2008

In a run-down casino town in northern Myanmar (Burma) market-goers can find everything from bear paws to tiger parts—evidence of a booming wildlife trade. However, recent crackdowns by governments in Southeast Asia may slow the illegal business, experts say.

On a 2007 trip to Möng La, on Myanmar's border with China, wildlife photographer Karl Ammann found a vast array of animal body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine, including bear paws and gall bladders, big-cat teeth—and even a freshly dismembered tiger penis.

(See photos of the animals for sale.)

Some of the animals will become "bush meat," often-endangered species not commonly consumed by people that are killed illegally and eaten as delicacies.

"What I had not seen anywhere else in Southeast Asia was the amount of animals sold for food," the Swiss-born Ammann said in a telephone interview from his home in Kenya.

"There were cages stacked on top of each other with captured animals: black bears, macaques, small primates, pangolins, rare birds, all kinds of reptiles, and tables filled with butchered animals with bullet holes through their heads and their throats cut.

"It's one of the worst scenes I've ever seen," he said.

(Watch a video of Southeast Asia's grisly wildlife trade).

Ammann has traveled on his own dime several times to wildlife-trade hot spots throughout Asia and Africa. He often poses as a buyer and photographs what he calls animal abuse in the hope that others will take notice.

"I'm an activist who likes to document things and show them to the rest of the world, so that people can't say they didn't know this was going on," he said.

Time Magazine recently named Ammann a Hero of the Environment. He has been credited as almost single-handedly raising awareness of the bush-meat trade.

(See photos of bush meat in Africa. Warning: graphic content.)

Continued on Next Page >>


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