Bear Bile, Tiger Parts Sold in Myanmar Markets

Myanmar's Booming Illegal Wildlife Trade
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Warning: This gallery contains graphic images.

February 28, 2008—A stall in Central Market in Möng La, on the border between Myanmar (Burma) and China, sells various dead wildlife, such as this bear (foreground), and skewers of unidentified meat in this undated photo.

Though a UN treaty and a recent agreement among Southeast Asian countries makes trade in some wildlife species illegal, open markets such as this one still thrive. (Read the full story.)

In this run-down casino town—part of an autonomous fiefdom run by a militia leader and alleged reformed drug lord—wildlife trade has replaced the drug and gambling industries as the one of the most lucrative economic activities in the region, observers say.

Market-goers can find everything from bear paws to tiger parts—evidence of a booming trade mostly fueled by nearby China's demand for animal parts for use in medicine and food delicacies. However, recent crackdowns by the government may slow the illegal business, experts say.

Wildlife photographer Karl Ammann has visited the region four times in the past 15 years, posing as a buyer.

"There were cages stacked on top of each other with captured animals: 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," Ammann said of his 2007 trip.

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

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—Photograph by Karl Ammann
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