AHLAUNGDAW KATHAPAW NATIONAL PARK
This beautiful designated wildlife reserve has 620 square miles (1,605 km2) of almost undisturbed low and highland forest that provides homes for Asian elephants, leopards, and three rare smaller cats—jungle, fishing, and Asiatic golden—with prey base for all. These include sambar and Indian muntjac or barking deer for the big cats, plus occasionally wild boars (though these are formidable quarry), and for the smaller ones, rodents, hares, and flying squirrels.
Huge gaur weighing up to a ton (1,000 kg) graze in clearings and rest in shady glades, females in small herds of four to eight, older males quiet and solitary except when mating stimulates bellows audible for a mile (1.6 km) or so. Glossy Asiatic or Himalayan black bears with distinctive white V-markings on their throats seek out berries and succulent plant material. Assam and rhesus macaques and capped langurs interrupt chattering to scream with alarm if they glimpse a leopard.
Showy great hornbills up to four feet (122 cm) long with outsize yellow bills and red eyes, rare elsewhere, protect nests in hollow trees with walls of mud, wood pulp, and plant debris, their pairs “singing” duets in loud harsh barks and roars. White-capped redstarts feed along rocky rivers and streams. Common also are red-wattled lapwings, wagtails, sandpipers, and forktails. Raptors and water-oriented birds are fewer, scarcities attributed to pesticide use in surrounding agricultural areas.
May–October is rainy—monsoonal in August–September. There have been, at least until recently, no all-weather roads, and just getting to the reserve can involve travel by plane to Mandalay, then 4WD, then boat across the Irrawaddy River, boat across the Chindwin River, then by tractor, bull-cart, foot, and finally by elephant. Most visitors are pilgrims—some 40,000 come annually to a Buddhist shrine in the park with monks in residence and small rest houses nearby plus one at Magyibin Sakan on the main pilgrimage route. More rest houses are planned at Thabeiksay for official visitors, with other facilities in a long-range plan to encourage ecotourism.
ALSO OF INTEREST
Mount Hkakabo-Razi National Park, Myanmar’s largest park—1,472 square miles (3,812 km2)—recently gazetted with help of WCS working with local communities, protecting red pandas,ox-like takins, black muntjac deer previously thought endemic to China, blue sheep, stone martens. Community development programs have been started to educate and enlist local people in park support, also to provide salt after discovery that many animals are poached to provide for this scarce item without which people suffer from sometimes fatal iodine deficiency.
Kyatthin Reserve, 104 forested square miles (268 km2) about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Mandalay with leopards, wild dogs, banteng, hog deer, Indian muntjacs and macaques, possibly also rare white-winged wood ducks.
Tamanthi Reserve, Myanmar’s second largest wildlife sanctuary, 830 square miles (2,150 km2), 600 air miles (1,000 km) north of Yangon, largely intact evergreen and semievergreen forest with leopards, tigers, wild dogs, hoolock gibbons, green peafowl, and good populations of Asian elephants.
Hlawga National Park, one of the country’s most accessible, 45 minutes’ drive from Yangon, with more than 70 species of herbivorous fauna, 90 species of birds.
Inle Lake, 389 square miles (1,010 km2) of shallow waters and marshes in central Myanmar with cranes, lesser spotted eagles, many winter waterfowl migrants, white-tailed stonechats, and rare, local Jerdon’s bushchats.
Lampi Island, the country’s first marine national park.
Mohingyi Reserve, with storks, migrant ducks and waders.
Popa Mountain Park, also relatively accessible, with monkeys that have become habituated to human visitors.