Dawna Tenessarim Landscape

© Peter Cutter / WWF Greater Mekong
The Dawna Tenasserim Landscape (DTL) straddling the border of Myanmar and Thailand is a stronghold for large mammals, rare birds, endemic plants, and functioning ecosystems.
A mountainous region with steep hillsides and narrow valleys carved from ancient limestone, it covers 84,442 km2 of which 77 percent is natural forest cover. In Myanmar, heavy rains support some of the largest areas of lowland evergreen forest remaining in the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. The drier Thai side is covered with a rich mosaic of evergreen and deciduous forests.

The DTL encompasses one of the largest protected area networks in Southeast Asia—the Western Forest Complex in Thailand—which consists of 11 national parks and 6 wildlife sanctuaries totaling 18,000 km2. Three of the wildlife sanctuaries, Huai Kha Kaeng, Thungyai East, and Thung Yai West are UNESCO Natural World Heritage sites. In the southern part of the DTL, the Kuiburi-Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex in Thailand covers 3000 km2 and has been nominated as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site. The Thai protected areas, combined with adjacent forests in Myanmar, form a wilderness of breathtaking beauty and constitute the most intact large natural landscape in the Greater Mekong. Increasingly the DTL is being recognized as an international conservation priority, but we are in a race against time, as there are tremendous development pressures on this area. 

The landscape is a tiger stronghold, containing as many as 250 of this critically endangered species and serving as the single best hope for tiger recovery across the Greater Mekong.  As many as 1600 Asian elephants may roam these forests, along with endemic and endangered species such as the Siamese crocodile, Asian tapir, clouded leopard, Gurney’s pitta, rufous-necked hornbill, Fea’s muntjac and Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, Asia’s smallest mammal. 

The Dawna and Tenasserim mountain ranges are the source for the region’s major rivers and watersheds: the Tenasserim in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region and the Mae Khlong, Chao Phraya, Petchaburi and Lower Western watershed systems in Thailand. 

A diverse population of human cultures has called this landscape home for centuries, with the Karen being the most prominent indigenous group. Other groups include the Hmong, Lisu and Mon. They, and millions of others in the region, rely on the ecosystem services provided by the landscape, including food and water, nutrient cycling, crop pollination, seed dispersal and regulation of climate, pests and disease. 

Multiple Threats

While it is still relatively intact, the landscape, its people and wildlife are under immense pressure due to:
  • widespread forest clearance for industrial agriculture
  • forest fragmentation due to small-scale agriculture, clearing for plantations and illegal logging
  • commercial poaching for the illegal wildlife trade
  • unsustainable harvesting of wild meat and forest products
  • major infrastructure development such as dams and roads 
These threats are increasing as Myanmar opens up and the world’s thirst for resources, energy and wildlife grows.

A Shared Vision

WWF’s vision for the DTL is to conserve its forests as intact, connected ecosystems, providing safe harbour for 168 mammal species, 568 bird species and thousands of reptile, amphibian, insect, fish and plant species. We will work to safeguard the landscape’s ecosystem services and help its communities thrive while they live in harmony with nature. By combining expertise in both countries and drawing on technical support and funding from around the world, WWF sees a bright future for the DTL.