Called the Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve, the Vermont-sized protected area culminates more than five years of collaborative work between WCS and the Myanmar Forest Department that catalogued not only the region's wildlife, but also identified threats from outside forces such as gold mining and commercial hunting. Wildlife surveys revealed the reserve also contains rich populations of elephants, rare clouded leopards, and endangered gaur, a massive species of wild cattle weighing up to a ton.
In addition to its rich wildlife diversity, Hukawng is historically significant, known as the "Valley of Death" during WWII , due to the costly Stillwell (or Ledo) Road supply route constructed by the Allies through its interior.
"The Valley of Death is now the 'Valley of Life' for tigers," said Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, WCS Director of Science and Exploration. "If the Hukawng Valley is properly protected and managed, this area could contain the largest contiguous population of tigers in the world, and help seed other potential tiger habitat that has already lost this magnificent animal."
According to Rabinowitz, the reserve's current population of approximately 80-100 tigers can grow to perhaps ten times as many, if protection and management plans are carried out properly.
Rabinowitz conducted much of the Reserve's initial wildlife surveys and helped the Myanmar Forest Department draw up management plans, which will include training and education, park infrastructure, and local community development initiatives. A chronicle of Rabinowitz's on-the-ground work to protect Hukawng Valley is featured in the April issue of National Geographic Magazine.