Panlaung-Pyadalin Cave Wildlife Sanctuary, Shan State
Pidaung Wildlife Sanctuary, Kachin State
Mountain Park, Mandalay Division
Rakhine Yoma Elephant Range, Rakhine State
Daung Wildlife Sanctuary, Mandalay Division/ Shan State
Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary, Magwe Division
Satellite imagery courtesy of
Terrametrics, Inc, Colorado.
Year One (mid-1999 to December 2000)
The inaugural year began with a training
course held in Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park in July 1999.
Twenty foresters and park rangers from the Nature and Wildlife
Conservation Division of the Forestry Department attended. The
course, taught by Joe Slowinski, Jens Vindum, and Heidi Robeck,
focused on the fundamentals of herpetology, systematics, and the
practical aspects of fieldwork. Participants learned how to
identify animals, how to sample tissues, how to prepare and
preserve scientific museum specimens, as well as record
associated ecological and collection data. At the completion of
the course, the most interested and talented individuals were
identified for the Myanmar Herpetological Survey field team.
is committed to the education and training of the people
most closely working with the biological resources of
the country. This was actually the second training
course held by the CAS team; the first was held in
Hlawga Wildlife Park in 1998. Previously, George Zug
held a similar herpetology workshop at Chatthin Wildlife
Sanctuary where a similar syllabus of systematics and
herpetology was combined with survey techniques and
training in specimen preparation. Hopefully through
continued exposure to modern systematic and organismal
biological research, a new generation of biologists will
be inspired to conserve and study their native fauna.
The first survey site of
the Project was Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park, (A.K. Park),
where the field team was joined by Slowinski and Vindum.
A.K. Park preserves
important pristine habitat within deep valleys punctuated by
low-elevation mountain ranges. Closed-canopy deciduous
dipterocarp forests drape its mountains alternating with the
stunted dipterocarp savanna known as Indaing forest (Blower
1985). Through the valleys of mesic evergreen forests, CAS
members and the field team by elephant.
The map shows some of the
rugged relief of the Park and the collecting localities of the
first survey transect.
After the training course, Vindum and two of the new field team
members, Htun Win and Thin Thin, continued to make collections
in Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park for an additional three
weeks. These collections along with collections made during the
training course resulted in a number of new species. On one of
the first night surveys, Slowinski collected a new species of
wolf snake, Lycodon zawi (Slowinski, Pawar, Htun Win,
Thin Thin, Sai Wunna Kyi, San Lwin Oo, and Hla Tun 2001). A new
species of bent-toed gecko, Cyrtodactylus slowinskii
(Bauer 2002), was found to be common on the rocky banks along
many of the park's rivers.
While Vindum and others remained at A.K.
Park, a crew from National Geographic Explorer series for
television accompanied Slowinski to film his efforts to document
the newly discovered Mandalay spitting cobra, Naja
mandalayensis (Slowinski and Wüster 2000) for the show
called "Cobra Hunt".
The next three months were spent preparing
for the start of the survey work. A memorandum of agreement was
signed between the three collaborating institutions, and plans
were made as to where the field team would survey. A vehicle was
purchased, and field equipment and supplies were bought.
In November 1999, Slowinski and Heidi
Robeck (graduate student, Harvard University) traveled with the
field team to Kyaik Hti Yo Wildlife Sanctuary, Mon State, and
then to the Lake Inle area of western Shan State. This trip
offered the field team additional training before they started
After Slowinski left in November, the
field team, consisting of Htun Win (team leader), Thin Thin, San
Lwin Oo, Sai Wunna Kyi, and photographer Hla Tun started their
survey work. They began surveying Hlawga Wildlife Park, about a
forty minute drive from Yangon. The close proximity to Yangon
allowed the team to try out their equipment and purchase
additional needed items.
2000 began with the field
team traveling farther afield. In January, the team headed north
to Shwesettaw Wildife Sanctuary, Magwe State. From there, they
headed north to Popa Mountain Park, Mandalay Division. Both
areas are in the central dry zone of the Ayeyarwady plains. At
Popa Mountain Park, they collected a new species of gecko (Cyrtodactylus
brevidactylus Bauer 2002). This lizard is most likely
endemic to Mount Popa.
Shown here in a view from the
International Space Station, the extinct volcano of Mount Popa
(5,080 ft. elev.) is the dark vegetated peak surrounded by the
arid plain of the Ayerarwady basin. Light-colored sandbars can
be seen in the main channel of the Ayerarwady River.
Sciences and Image Analysis, NASA-Johnson Space Center. 27 Jun.
2003. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth" <http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/Coll/>
image STS095-721-AT November 1998.
Two new graduate students from CAS and San Francisco State
University (SFSU) began their thesis research focusing on
elements of the Myanmar herpetofauna.
Guin Wogan is unraveling the confused taxonomies and
systematics of the ranids of Myanmar. Rhonda Lucas is focusing
on the systematics and biology of the southeast Asian snake
genus Ahaetulla. Molecular phylogenetic techniques are at
the core of both thesis projects, relying on the use of tissue
samples that accompany voucher specimens.
In April, Slowinski, Zug, Vindum and Lucas met up with the field
team. Vindum, Lucas, and Sai Wunna Kyi traveled to a small
village in the Ayeyarwady delta where they spent six weeks
collecting along the mangrove sloughs of the delta. Forty-seven
species were recorded, including the little known vine snake,
Ahaetulla fronticincta, and a number of homalopsine snakes
such as Cerberus, Bitia, Cantoria,
Fordonia and Gerarda. Two new species were also found
in the delta area, a caecilian and a gecko.
At the same time, Slowinski, Zug and the rest
of the field team explored the areas in western Shan State and
After the US members
left, the field team revisited Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park
and spent nearly two months collecting. About 60 species were
collected including at least three new species.
After Alaungdaw Kathapa
National Park, the field team continued making collections in
the central dry zone from August through November. Areas
included Shin Ma Taung Reserve, Minsontaung Wildlife Sanctuary,
and Shwe U Daung Wildlife Sanctuary.
From left top,
Cosymbotus platurus, Fejervarya limnocharis, and
From right top,
Kaloula pulcra (photo by Dong Lin), Draco maculatus,
November, the field team joined Slowinski and Academy staff from
the Department of Entomology and Department of Ornithology and
Mammalogy and traveled to the coastal mountain forests in the
Rakhine Yoma Elephant Range. Thirty-four amphibian and reptile
species were collected. During the trip, a few days were spent
surveying coastal mangroves which resulted in the capture of
three species of sea snakes: Laticauda colubrina, L.
laticaudata, and Hydrophis ornatus. The Academy's
Science Now highlighted this multi-disciplinary trip.
With two new field team members, Kyi Soe Lwin and Awan Khwi
Shein, the field team started the new year surveying Meinmahla
Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary. Founded in 1994, Meinmahla Kyun
Wildlife Sanctuary is the only protected region encompassing
mangrove habitat in the Ayeyarwady Delta and was meant to
provide rearing grounds for C. porosus, which has
vanished throughout most of its Myanmar range due to habitat
destruction. Here, they encountered Crocodylus porosus
(above), sea turtles and other mangrove specialists, about 17
above; rhododendrons in
Chin State, right.
After collected in the hot and humid Ayeyarwady Delta, the field
team traveled north to Nat Ma Taung National Park in Chin State
and collected on the slopes of Mount Victoria. Here, a number of
the field team members saw naturally occurring ice for the first
time. The team collected in the park and surrounding areas for
about six weeks. Although the diversity was not high, about 35
species, a number of new species were collected. Three new
lizard species were discovered (Calotes chincollium
Vindum, 2003, Cyrtodactylus sp. nov. Bauer, in press, and
a new species of the rare genus Ptyctolaemus Vindum, in
prep.). Two other uncommon agamid lizards were collected on this
trip: Japalura planidorsata and Calotes jerdoni.
At least three new species of frogs were also found.
Left to right, Awan
Khwi Shein, Kyi Soe Lwin, Slowinski, Wogan, HtunWin, Thin Thin
In mid-April, Slowinski returned to Myanmar with Guin Wogan.
They joined the field team and went back to the Rakhine Yoma
Elephant Range because the forest had looked very promising on
the previous trip. This trip, like the previous trip, yielded
only about 33 species, but the composition was different. A
number of new species were collected including a new toad (Bufo
crocus Wogan 2003), two new species of geckos (Cyrtodactylus
n. sp. Bauer, in press) and several new frog species.
After returning to Yangon, in early May, the
team had a short vacation, then returned to the Rakhine Yoma
Elephant Range in June. In early July, they traveled to northern
Rakhine State. Again, the number of species was not very
diverse, only 42 species, but a number of different species were
found including two new tree frogs (Chirixalus punctatus
Wilkinson 2003 and a new Rhacophorus n. sp. Wilkinson, in
prep.) and a possible new lizard. Combining the collections from
Rakhine State, a total of 73 species have been recorded.
September, Joe Slowinski was heading an ambitious,
multidisciplinary trip to Hkakabo Razi Protected Area.
The trip included three botanists (CAS, Harvard
University and the Kunming Institute of Botany), an
ichthyologist (CAS), three herpetologists (CAS and the
Kunming Institute of Zoology), an anthropologist (CAS),
and an ornithologist and mammalogist (CAS). Tragically,
the trip was cut short because of the untimely death of
After Slowinski's death,
the Department of Herpetology decided to continue the
project. Alan E. Leviton, Curator and Chairman, took
over the responsibilities of the grant. In December, Zug
and Vindum went to Yangon to discuss the continuation of
the project with officials from the Forest Department,
Ministry of Forestry.
In January, graduate students Lucas and Wogan
joined the field team and together conducted surveys in the
coastal rainforests and mangroves of Mon State, Ayeyarwady
Division, and Rakhine State. Several new sites as well as
previously surveyed areas were visited. The return visits to Mwe
Hauk Village in the Ayeyarwady Division and Gwa Village in
southern Rakhine State are part of the effort to document the
seasonality of faunal assemblages in these coastal habitats.
Myanmar has a tropical climate that can be divided into
Cool Season: From November to February temperatures are
moderate with little, if any rain.
Hot Season: From March
to May, the weather can be stifling with temperatures
reaching over 37°C (100°F).
Rainy Season: Monsoon
rains follow beginning in late May through October.
Temperatures drop, but the humidity increases
Earth Sciences and Image
Analysis, NASA-Johnson Space Center. 27 Jun. 2003. "The Gateway
to Astronaut Photography of Earth" <http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/Coll/>
image STS076-704-035 March 1996.
Another view from the
International Space Station shows the Ayerarwady River delta and
the approximate locations of some survey sites. Despite the
strong glare from the sun off the water, the large amount of
sediments from the river can be seen spilling into the Andaman
In February, Zug returned to Myanmar and, with Sai Wunna Kyi,
traveled to Kyaik Hti Yo Wildlife Sanctuary, Bago Mountains, and
Moeyingyi Bird Sanctuary. The purpose of their trip was to
locate sites that could be used for long-term monitoring
Hkakabo Razi Protected Area,
From early March to mid May, the field team
went back to Hkakabo Razi Protected Area to begin a three-month
survey. In the shadow of the jagged, snow-covered peaks, the
field team traveled by foot for over 140 km into the park. Here
is the intriguing meeting of the Sino-Burman Range, which forms
the uplifted eastern bounds of the country, and the eastern
Himalayan range to the north. The area had the highest diversity
the Project had found in any given area in Myanmar, with 82
species recorded. Highlights include the vipers Protobothrops
kaulbacki, P. mucrosquamatus and Ovophis monticola,
the rare toad Bufo stuarti, and the relatively rare
agamids Calotes jerdoni and Ptyctolaemus gularis.
This region has only recently been declared a
protected area and had previously been lightly surveyed by
Ronald Kaulback in the 1930's. As a result of Kaulback's survey,
several new species were described by Malcolm Smith (1940) that
are currently only known from the few specimens. Thus, specimens
collected from this region will be important comparative
material for several species. In addition, several new species
have been collected from the region (Wilkinson, in prep.), and
analysis has just begun.
left, Panlaung-Pyadalin Cave
Wildlife Sanctuary; right, Inle Lake Bird Sanctuary.
After a break, the field team, accompanied by Lucas, Wogan and
Vindum, focused on western Shan State, collecting in the
Panlaung-Pyadalin Cave Wildlife Sanctuary and the Inle Lake Bird
Sanctuary, for approximately six weeks. Their itinerary brought
them into Indaing forests through moist mountain evergreen
forests, all areas previously unsurveyed. Again, a number of new
species were collected, including another new species of
Cyrtodactylus (Bauer, in press), another tree frog (Wilkinson,
in prep.), and two new species of frogs (Wogan, in prep.).
In addition to new records of several
snake, lizard and frog species, the sole salamander known
from the country was documented in the Taunggyi area. The
team discovered that the salamander, Tylototriton
verrucosus, is used in traditional folk medicine to cure
dried and packaged
During the rainy season (September to October), the field team
returned to various areas in the central dry zone to document
seasonal variation in species assemblages between the wet and
In November, the field team traveled to northern Sagaing State,
near the Indian border, to the Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary,
which preserves 2,151 sq. km. of evergreen to semi-evergreen
forests and is considered one of the most important remaining
areas of intact habitat for large mammals such as tigers and
wild elephants (Rabinowitz 1995). Its position on the east bank
of the Chindwin River, a major tributary of the Ayeyarwady
River, also makes it inviting to ichthyological and
This year started with the field team heading south into
Tanintharyi Division to the Tavoy area. This was the team's
first visit to the southern coastal Myanmar, and a number of
species collected here represent the first records for the
In late January, basic equipment for
establishing a natural history museum was sent by cargo ship to
Yangon. CAS donated supplies such as glass jars and lids,
shelving units, books, journals and computers for the newly
established Myanmar Biodiversity Museum located in Hlawga
Wildlife Park outside of Yangon.
In February, Vindum returned to help
unpack the shipping container filled with museum supplies.
Unfortunately, the ship carrying the container broke down in
Singapore and didn't arrive until after Vindum returned to CAS.
In March and April, the field team traveled to Kachin State to
survey Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary and Pidaung Wildlife
Sanctuary. The Pidaung Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1918
and the oldest sanctuary in Myanmar, lies just west of the city
of Myitkyina in northern Myanmar and preserves rolling hills and
valleys vegetated with evergreen forests and grasslands (Scott
1989). Although impacted by agricultural activities, it still
promises to be biogeographically interesting.
Wogan, Jeffery Wilkinson and Vindum returned
to Myanmar in late April. The first portion of the trip involved
organizing the Herpetology Section of the Myanmar Biodiversity
Museum. With the help of the field team and others, collection
and library shelves were installed. Library books were unpacked
and organized, and the first jars of specimens were placed on
the collection shelving.
The new museum collection will house many
of the specimens collected by the survey. Daw Thin Thin, one of
the field team members, will curate the new collection. The
building of the collection space was the subject of a
Science Now exhibit at CAS.
Here, Htun Win and Kyi Soe Lwin hang the sign for the
Indawgyi Lake Wildlife
Sanctuary, Kachin State: right, understory; left, lake; bottom,
field team examines a lizard.
The rest of trip, the field team, Vindum,
Wogan and Wilkinson conducted the first herpetological survey in
the newly established Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary in Kachin
State. A surprisingly high diversity (75 species) was
encountered, with potentially 12 new species.
At the conclusion of the Indawgyi Lake trip, Wogan and Thin Thin
designed and implemented a long-term amphibian and reptile
monitoring program for Hlawga Wildlife Park.
On the shore of Indawgyi
Lake, the field participants pose for a group photo.
The field team spent July and the first half of August surveying
the mountains of northern Chin State. Again, the collection
yielded a number of potentially new species of lizards.
In the latter part of August and the end
of September, the team flew to eastern Shan State to survey the
remote Wildlife Refuges of Pa-Sa and Loimwe.
The last two months of the project
(November and December) will be spent in the southern portion of
Tanintharyi Division. We are certain that these collections will
contain new records for the country.
All these areas are newly sampled areas
that have helped increased our sampling of new habitats and
team at work: left to right, Htun Win, Kyi Soe Lwin, Thin Thin
in forest; Htun Win and Kyi Soe Lwin catching a snake.
Based on the scientific
literature, museum collection records, and survey results, the
Project has compiled a
Checklist of known species to occur in Myanmar. As of the
beginning of 2003, the Project has vouchered 174 species, 50% of
the known herpetofauna, including 14 newly described species. In
additional to the new species, another 42 are awaiting
description or are in the process of being described.
Close to 11,000 voucher
specimens have been cataloged among the three collaborating
institutions, CAS, USNM and the newly established Myanmar
Biodiversity Museum (MBM). They are being utilized in a number
of research studies and form the foundation for understanding
the rich fauna of the country.
We have sampled in 12 of
20 ecoregions as defined by WWF that are within the country,
Yoma montane forests
alpine shrub and meadows
Mizoram-Manipur-Kachin rain forests
Myanmar coastal rain
scientific results of the Project are still being analyzed and
studied by Project members and colleagues. The
Publications page lists the scientific publications that
have resulted directly from the survey work, and we expect many
additions as research progresses
planning to bring the Myanmar Field Team to the Academy for a
study course which will focus on:
1) curation techniques so that the newly established Myanmar
Biodiversity Museum collections can be maintained; and 2)
research and preparing the results for publication, so that our
Myanmar colleagues can confidently carry out and publish
original research in internationally peer-reviewed scientific
Currently, we are
applying for new funding to continue the project that will focus
on the unsurveyed mountainous border areas of Myanmar.
Koo, M.S., J.V. Vindum, G.O.U.
Wogan and S.D. Blum. 2003 comp. The Myanmar Herpetological Survey
Project, Department of Herpetology, California Academy of Sciences, San
Francisco CA. http://www.calacademy.org/research/herpetology/myanmar/.