National Parks in Myanmar
Throughout the world countries have been urged to set aside protected areas to maintain the natural environment and the flora and fauna therein. The National Parks in Myanmar are an indication that the country has also understood the need to minimise the effects of human activity that is harmful to that natural environment.
Myanmar has been a fairly isolated country until recent years. It has developed in its own way with the Government concentrating its resources into its military strength while there remains significant poverty. Many villagers are living the same way as the generations before them growing food and ‘’living off the land.’’ One of the consequences of Government policy which has looked to exploit the resource of the Irrawaddy River with dams for the creation of hydro-electric power has been the impact on the rare dolphin and shark in the lower reaches. However the river provides water for irrigating the land and improving agricultural production.
There are several protected areas in Myanmar with the aim of protecting wildlife but not all of them have been successful. Hukaung Tiger Reserve in the far north of Myanmar was set up in the hope of protecting the dwindling population of tigers, a fact in every Asian country that has a population. The sad fact is there are few signs that any live in the area today though the Government has yet to acknowledge that. Logging, plantations and gold mining have all been factors and clearly there is pressure elsewhere to satisfy human demands rather than those of the indigenous wildlife.
On the positive side there are nine designated National Parks in Myanmar and it is hoped that that number will increase. The Parks have several aims and some of them are part of Myanmar travel packages, especially those that include recreational activities.Other than recreation the aim is to protect especially beautiful areas, those with important ecosystems or unusual geological formation. In no particular order here are brief details of the nine National Parks in Myanmar:
• Hlawaga National Park is in Mingaladon just north of Yangon. It has a 313 hectare wildlife park, a 25 hectare mini-zoo as well as a 267hectare buffer zone. There are organized tours through the park and also a chance to ride on the back of an elephant. Hiking, boating and bird watching are popular activities while some just enjoy it as a picnic area.
• The Lampi Island Marine National Park is on Lanbi Island in the Mergui Archipelago. The Burma Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division administer the Park and there is a strict level of control level. The highest point is 455 metres with coral reefs, mangroves and tropical forest. The beaches and dunes are beautiful and visitors may catch a glimpse of the dugongs that feed on the sea grass.
• The Tanintharyi National Park is 1,490 metres at its highest point. It is close to the Thai border and has a good variety of fauna in its mangroves and forests; the Asian elephant, Sambar deer, Barking deer, Leopard, Red Goral and Serow. There is also an excellent selection of birds.
• Popa Mountain National Park in Kyaukpadaung near Mandalay Division was established in 1989. One of the attractions is the Mount itself, a volcanic plug with impressive golden stupas on the top. It is quite a climb to reach the summit but on a clear day the view is spectacular. The Mount is 50 km from Bagan which together with the Mount is in all Myanmar tour packages.
• Mount Victoria National Park (Nat Ma Taung) was established five years later in 1994. It is in Chin State in the remote north west of Myanmar with Bangladesh and India immediately to its west. Those who feel fit might decide to climb the mountain while it is less arduous to visit the heart-shaped Lake nearby, ‘’Reh.’’
• Loimwe National Park in the Shan Hills near the town of the same name (meaning ‘’misty mountain’’) was popular with the British who made the town their headquarters due to the more acceptable climate due to its altitude; 1,600 metres at its highest. It is a great area for trekking and those taking a Myanmar holiday where activity is an important part could do worse than to visit this one of the National Parks in Myanmar.
• The Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park, at 1,600 sq. km is the largest of the National Parks in Myanmar. It is a significant site for pilgrims with as many as 30,000 visiting each year to see the shrine of Maha Kathapa, one of Buddha’s disciples. There is a reclining figure and it is believed his remains lie underneath. The region is very isolated with elephants the best means of transport. Few tourists have yet to visit this Park which is a five hour drive from Monywa in Central Myanmar, west of Mandalay.
• Khakaborazi National Park in Naungmung in Kachin State in the far north was only established 20 years ago. The highest peak in Myanmar, Hkakabo Razi, indeed the highest in South East Asia is the major attraction, all 5,880 metres of it.
• Lenya National Park in the Tenasserim Hills bordering Thailand is 177,000 hectares of lowland tropical forest but it is an area that is regarded as valuable for its natural resources as opposed to something to preserve in its present state. It is home to one of the very endangered bird species of South East Asia, the Gurney’s Pitta.
Myanmar travel is becoming increasingly popular and this list of national parks is an indication of the many natural areas that are under some form of protection. There are other areas of special interest, a number of which aim to protect the wildlife of Myanmar. A fairly limited number of people have been to these places in recent years, all the more reason for them to be worth very serious consideration for a future holiday. They provide an excellent balance to the religious, historical and cultural attractions elsewhere in the Country.