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.
The Project 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
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
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
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 extensive surveys.
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.
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 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 Mandalay Division.
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 Ahaetulla prasina.
From right top, Kaloula
pulcra (photo by Dong Lin), Draco maculatus, Leiolepis
In late 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 revolving exhibit 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 species.
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.
to right, Awan Khwi Shein, Kyi Soe Lwin, Slowinski, Wogan, HtunWin,
Thin Thin carrying Python
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.
In 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 Slowinski.
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
SEASONS: Myanmar has
a tropical climate that can be divided into three seasons:
Cool Season: From November
to February temperatures are moderate with little, if any
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 dramatically.
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.
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 Sea.
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 projects.
Razi Protected Area, Kachin State
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.
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 childhood diseases.
verrucosus, 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 dry seasons.
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 herpetological surveying.
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 country.
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 herpetological collections.
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
the shore of Indawgyi Lake, the field participants pose for a group
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 Taninthary Division. We are
certain that these collections will contain new records for the
All these areas are newly sampled areas that have helped increased
our sampling of new habitats and ecoregions.
Field 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
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, including:
Chin Hills-Arakan Yoma montane forests
Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows
Irrawaddy dry forests
Irrawaddy freshwater swamp forests
Irrawaddy moist deciduous forests
Kayah-Karen montane rain forests
Mizoram-Manipur-Kachin rain forests
Myanmar Coast mangroves
Myanmar coastal rain forests
Northern Indochina subtropical forests
Northern Triangle subtropical forests
Northern Triangle temperate forests
The 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.
CAS is 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
Currently, we are applying for new funding to continue
the project that will focus on the unsurveyed mountainous border areas