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Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

Date of Submission: 25/02/2014
Criteria: (ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
State, Province or Region:
Kachin State/Sagaing Division
Ref.: 5875

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The Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary (HVWS) and its extension are located in northwest Myanmar and falls in both Sagaing Division and Kachin State and cover a total area of 17,890 km2. HVWS and extension form a doughnut whose unprotected center covers the floodplain of the Chindwin River, the largest tributary of the Ayeyarwady River. The floodplain is inhabited by some 50,000 people. Established in 2001, HVWS covers 6,371 km2. In 2004, the extension was established, adding 11,519 km2. Hereafter, the two sites are referred to as the HVWS. To the east and northeast, it is contiguous with Bumhpabum WS and Hponkan Razi WS. To the north, it abuts Namdapha National Park (NP), which was put on India’s TL in March 2006 (UNESCO World Heritage Centre 2013a). Forest areas within HVWS are primarily evergreen.  At higher elevations, mixed deciduous forest, evergreen hill forest, and pine forest are present. Globally threatened wildlife includes the Asian Elephant, Tiger, and White-bellied Heron.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

HVWS is an excellent example of large-scale conservation in Southeast Asia. It is the largest protected area in Myanmar and its size is augmented by its contiguity with other protected areas.  Such protection on a landscape scale is critical for globally threatened wildlife with large home ranges, including the Asian Elephant, Tiger, and Rufous-necked Hornbill. HVWS contains an array of forest types and elevations, in turn providing habitat to a diverse assemblage of wildlife. The inclusion of a substantial portion of the unprotected floodplain (the hole in the doughnut) would greatly strengthen its OUV by preserving a vast central seasonally-flooded grassland (second only in size to the Tonle Sap in Cambodia) that can support high densities of charismatic megafauna.

Criterion (ix): Its size makes HVWS an outstanding example of large-scale ecological processes. It contains multiple interacting ecosystems and biophysical processes, as well as substantial habitat for megafauna with large ranges. HVWS ranges in elevation from 170 m to 3,225 m. If it were extended to include about 500 km2 of floodplain north of the Chindwin, this criterion would be further strengthened by connecting the mountain forests to the valley grasslands.

Criterion (x): HVWS includes many highly threatened species.  Its size and connection to other protected areas makes HVWS particularly important for wide-ranging wildlife such as the Asian Elephant, Tiger, and Rufous-necked Hornbill. The Hoolock Gibbon and Shortridge’s Langur are also present (Brockelman and Geissmann 2008). More than 400 species of birds have been documented, including the White-bellied Heron.  HVWS also contains the Burmese Peacock Softshell Turtle, which is endemic to Myanmar. The conservation value of HVWS would be greatly increased by extending the boundary to cover the northern part of the floodplain. Inclusion of this area would be particularly significant for waterbirds and Indian Water Buffalo.  Species of high conservation importance in HVWS include (Myanmar Biodiversity 2012):


EN: Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Dhole (Cuon alpinus), Hog Deer (Axis porcinus), Indian Water Buffalo (Bubalus arnee), Tiger (Panthera tigris), Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock spp.), Shortridge’s Langur (Trachypithecus shortridgei)

VU: Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Himalayan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), Gaur (Bos gaurus), Sambar (Rusa unicolor)


EN: Burmese Narrow-headed Softshell Turtle (Chitra vandijki), Burmese Peacock Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia formosa), Keeled Box Turtle (Cuora mouhotii)

VU: Asian Box Turtle (Cuora spp.), Asiatic Softshell Turtle (Amyda cartilaginea), Impressed Tortoise (Manouria impressa)


CR: White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis)

EN: Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris), White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), White-winged Duck (Carina scutulata), Masked Finfoot (Heliopais personata), Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus)

VU: Wood Snipe (Gallinago nemoricola), Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus), Rufous-necked Hornbill (Aceros nipalensis)


VU: Agarwood tree (Aquilaria malaccensis)

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

About 50,000 people live in the unprotected central valley, the majority of whom are Kachin.  Naga and Shan ethnic groups also live in the valley.  Within HVWS, except for small areas impacted by artisanal mining, the habitat is generally in good condition.  However, protection of commercially valuable wildlife is a challenge, due in part to its size.  Although tiger conservation was a driving factor behind its creation, it currently has fewer than 50 individuals. Judging from a Landsat image taken in September 2013, there appears to be no significant human impacts in the proposed floodplain extension. This extension would contribute to the property’s wholeness by including the ranges of key species including waterbirds.

Concessions cover most of the floodplain and parts of HVWS itself. The Russian energy company Nobel Oil was granted oil exploration rights in 2008 to Block PSC-A, which covers a significant portion of HVWS. Since no extractive industries can be present within a WHS, this presents a significant barrier to its nomination as a WHS.

Several large gold mines are present in the unprotected valley. The largest is in Shingbwiyang in the western part of the valley. Migrants engage in gold panning along the rivers, which typically involves the use of cyanide, mercury, or other toxic substances. Inmigration has also increased hunting for subsistence and commercial use. Agricultural plantation concessions are also present in the valley. The proposed extension was drawn to exclude any areas of apparent mining or agriculture.

Comparison with other similar properties

Two nominally similar sites are Namdapha NP and Manas WS in India (UNESCO World Heritage Centre 2013a, 2013b). Namdapha NP covers 1,985 km2 (of which 1,808 km2 is considered part of its core zone) and ranges in elevation from 200 m to over 4,500 m. From low to high elevations, its habitats are moist evergreen, montane and temperate forests, and alpine meadows, and areas of permanent snow and ice. It was added to the TL for criteria vii, ix, and x and was once notable for its tiger population. However, there may now be less than 10 individuals remaining. Other large cats found in the park include the Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Common Leopard (Panthera pardus), and Asiatic Golden Cat (Pardofelis temminckii). Other carnivorous mammals include Dhole (Cuon alpinus), Asiatic Black bear (Ursus thibetanus), and several species of civet cats (Viverridae family). More than half of its area is not considered viable tiger habitat, primarily due to high elevation. Management concerns focus on poaching and five villages located in the core of the park.

Manas WS covers 391 km2 and was inscribed as a natural WHS in 1985 for criteria vii, ix, and x (UNESCO World Heritage Centre 2013b). Like HCWS, it includes seasonally-flooded grasslands in its lower elevations and supports a range of wildlife including, Tigers, Indian Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, and 26 globally threatened birds.

HVWS therefore stands out for its exceptionally large size and the potential to include a large area of seasonally flooded grassland if the boundary were extended to cover the northern half of the floodplain. Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng WS in Thailand is also home to tigers it contains a greater representation of species of Sundaic origin and does not include large areas of grassland.