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Myanmar | Illegal cutting threatens last remaining old-growth mangrove forest

TANINTHARYI, Myanmar — When viewed from the bow of a boat, the shoreline near the city of Myeik in southern Myanmar is all green. In every direction, low-slung mangroves blanket the horizon, their trunks submerged under several feet of water at high tide. The trees anchor a sprawling landscape that supports village life and a booming fishing industry up and down the shoreline of Tanintharyi, Myanmar’s southernmost state. But in many places, what appears green and lush from a distance disguises a landscape in peril.

Christoph Zockler, an ornithologist with the German foundation Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung for Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection, has seen this up close. He first traveled through this labyrinth of coastal islands and mudflats in 2013 in search of shorebirds. In November of 2016, in collaboration with the U.K.-based NGO Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Zockler and a team of researchers from Myeik launched a 12-day expedition of coastal Tanintharyi by boat, sleeping on board and, when the tides allowed, camping on shore. The team cataloged otters, dolphins, vast swarms of crabs at low tide, a wide variety of fish and more than 200 species of birds, including the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper (Calidris pygmaea), of which no more than 600 likely remain on Earth.


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