Asian Elephants Are Now Being Killed for Their Skin
A lawless zone in northeastern Myanmar has cornered the market in a gruesome good: elephant skin jewelry.
The smell was ghastly and the sight even worse. Twenty-five elephants lay dead in a riverbed in the Ayeyawady (Irrawaddy) delta in southwestern Myanmar. “The stench is what led villagers to the bodies in the first place,” says Aung Myo Chit, the Smithsonian Institution’s Myanmar country coordinator, who also leads a local NGO, Growth for Prosperity, that helps rural residents avoid deadly conflicts with elephants.
It was the trust Aung Myo Chit’s outreach workers had earned that led villagers of Nga Pu Taw Township to reveal the dead elephants. Ordinarily local people avoid reporting poaching to the authorities for fear they’ll be blamed.
By the time Aung Myo Chit’s filmmaker colleague Klaus Reisinger got there in early May, the giant carcasses had