Elephant poaching escalates in Burma, warns NGO

The new Chinese online elephant skin market threatens the survival of the species in Burma, where poaching is intensifying to meet demand, environmentalists warned Tuesday. [19659002TheskinofelephantsiscrushedandusedforChinesemedicinetreatmentsorsoldtomakejewelrysaidtheBritishNGOElephantFamilyinitsstudyentitled"Ecorch├ęs:thegrowingappetiteforAsianelephants"andpresentedinBangkokonTuesday

Unlike poaching for ivory, the skin trade makes no distinction between elephant genders and ages. All are likely to be affected.

"That means no elephants are safe, Burma is losing too many elephants too fast," said Belinda Stewart-Cox, NGO manager.

There are about 2,000 wild elephants left in this Southeast Asian country, the second largest population in the region after Thailand.

But poaching has developed very rapidly in recent years and controls are almost non-existent. Associations denounce authorities' laxity.

Last year, 59 elephant carcasses were found, compared with only four in 2010, according to government statistics cited in the report.

Most elephants, who represent one of Burma's ten endangered animal species, are killed or smuggled into Thailand where they are used for tourism.

Hunting an endangered animal is illegal in Burma, a signatory to the Convention on the international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora (Cites), but the maximum fine is less than $ 60 and the proceedings are exceptional.

Burma Officially Defends 2 Reuters Reporters

Two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar, on Wednesday (10/1), have been formally charged with violating the State Secrecy Act.

Prosecutors filed charges against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on Wednesday (10/1) a short trial in Yangon. The two journalists were arrested on December 12 after they allegedly received secret documents from two policemen at a dinner event.

The lawyers of both journalists said the judge rejected the request to release his two clients on bail but promised to take a decision at the next hearing , which is scheduled to take place on January 23.

The two journalists briefly met with their families after the trial, before being returned to prison.

Outside the court, dozens of black-clad journalists marched to show their support for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Some of them carried banners reading "Journalism is not a crime."

The two men face the possibility of a maximum jail term of 14 years if proven to violate the State Secrecy Act. The law itself is centuries old or valid since Myanmar is still under British colonial rule. [ab/uh]