Khyne U Mar
In 2002 Khyne U Mar, a specialist in conservation and zoology, otherwise affectionately known as the ‘Elephant Lady’, applied for a PB scholarship to further her studies. Khyne U Mar’s internationally respected preservation work is considered to be ‘material to the very survival of the Asian elephant’. The use of elephants for forest preservation is known to be more economically and environmentally sustainable and she is passionate about reintroducing them to replace mechanised vehicles. She believes elephants show a promising future for preservation because unlike trucks, they do not need fuel to run or roads to drive on, and have a minimal impact on the landscape.
With our support Khyne U Mar undertook a PhD in Myanmar elephant demography at University College, London. Here she was able to work with other specialists and the university’s vast resources to expand her knowledge and way of thinking.
Khyne U Mar’s work combines biological and ethnological conservation. She recognises the value of traditional forest medicine particularly while working with ethnic minority groups. Through her studies she found that minority groups in Kachin State were using leaves from the forest to treat elephants, with results matching those that would come with expensive antibiotics.
Following the completion of her course, Khyne U Mar has been working as a post-doctorate research associate at the department of animal and plant sciences in the University of Sheffield. Whilst she remains working in England, she is maintaining the links between the UK and Asia which are vital for elephant conservation and care. During this time she has been compiling a demographic database of Myanmar’s timber elephants. Along with her extensive thirty years of experience in academic, research and administrative positions, she has been the star of documentaries such as ‘Of Oozies and Elephants’ and ‘Wild Burma: Nature’s Lost Kingdom’.
Khyne U Mar is also one of the principle research staff for the NGO ‘Myanmar Timber Elephant Project’. According to the Myanmar Timber Elephant Project website: “Myanmar exports 75% of the world’s teak, and the UN FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) estimates that 50-60% of the country’s 60 million people depend on forestry for their basic needs. Despite increasing mechanisation, half of the Myanmar timber is extracted by using trained elephants, particularly in the mountainous areas, because access by vehicles is difficult and such selective logging is more sustainable. Unfortunately, although at least half of the timber elephants are captive-born, more elephants must be captured from the wild to maintain the workforce. This could result in wild elephants in Myanmar becoming extinct by the end of this century.”
Khyne U Mar’s work is invaluable to the future of Myanmar, and will have an impact around the world.