High in the Golden Triangle
The rugged mountains of northern Myanmar conceal many secrets. It has been more than a century since the ecoregion was last extensively surveyed, so its globally outstanding biodiversity is thought to be far richer than what is currently known.
Vast, unbroken expanses of forest still blanket this ecoregion, consisting of several ranges east of the Himalayas in an area known as the Golden Triangle. These high peaks lie in a north-south pattern that stretches down toward the central plains of Myanmar. As a result, plants here are quite diverse. Subalpine conifer forests and patches of rhododendron species at higher altitudes transition into subtropical forests in the lower elevations. At the uppermost points, a mixed forest dominates.
More than 100 species of mammals are known to live in this ecoregion, with the likelihood that many more remain to be discovered. Two are endemic deer species: the Gongshan muntjac and Fea’s muntjac. Other endangered or rare species include the Bengal tiger, takin, clouded leopard, red panda, Asiatic black bear, stumped-tailed monkey, and great Indian civet, to name a few. Unlike many places in the Indo-Pacific, these forests remain relatively intact. As a result, these animals thrive in the protection of these forested hills. The takin, for example, leads a secretive life in thickets and bamboo. Of the 362 bird species that make their homes in this ecoregion, only the rusty-bellied shortwing is endemic. As is the case elsewhere in Indochina, several indicator species are found here, a sign that the forests are intact and undisturbed. These include the Oriental pied-hornbill, wreathed hornbill, Blyth’s tragopan, Himalayan flameback, and Sclater’s monal.
Cause for Concern
Because of its remoteness, this ecoregion remains relatively intact. However, it receives no formal protection. Human populations are pushing ever higher into the mountains, with increasing loss of forests to logging and agriculture. Birds and mammals in these higher elevations depend on unfragmented habitats so that migration patterns can be maintained.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001