Biological Surveys of Myanmar

Academy scientists emerge from the forests of Myanmar (formerly Burma) with new animal species and information critical to conserve the country's biodiversity.

Political isolation prevented scientists from surveying Myanmar's biological riches for much of the 20th century. Lured by the prospect of collecting in such unknown territory, Academy herpetologist Joe Slowinski set off for the country's remote forests three years ago. Since then, he's braved the tenacious leeches and hot, stuffy air to collect amphibians and reptiles on nine subsequent trips, uncovering several new species, including the first Burmese spitting cobra known to science. (Visit the video room of the Venoms Exhibit in Wattis Hall to see Joe's snake-hunting adventures.)

Recently, Slowinski returned to Myanmar with Academy mammal and bird scientist Doug Long and entomologist Keve Ribardo to expand surveys to include birds, mammals, and insects. They returned with many exciting animals from ants and beetles to pangolins (insect-eating mammals with thick, pinecone-like scales).

Trio of fruit bats netted by Doug Long at the Elephant Range
Sea Snake (Laticauda laticaudata) on the beach north of Gwa
Above: Porters, researchers, and elephants leaving the Elephant Range to go up the Gwa River in search of snakes
Inset: Academy researchers Keve Ribardo, Joe Slowinski, and Doug Long

With funding from the National Science Foundation, a group of Myanmar scientists collect year round for Slowinski, providing invaluable specimens and data to the Academy's collection. The local team receives a monthly salary, a home with office space, and a four-wheel-drive vehicle for collecting expeditions.

These and future surveys will reveal the critical information-what and how many species are where-necessary for the Myanmar government to implement successful conservation strategies.

Cerambycid beetle

All Photos: Dong Lin