Change in the Habitat of Indaing and the Future of Eld’s Deer in Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary, Myanmar

Htet Eain Khant, Naris Bhumpakphan, and Utis Kutintra



Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) is dominated by Indaing forests (dry deciduous dipterocarp forest) and represents a significant portion of a habitat critical for the survival of Thamin or Burmese Eld’s deer (Rucervus eldii thamin). Seven different habitat types are found in CWS and include a mature Indaing habitat, young Indaing habitat, seasonally flooded Indaing habitat, degraded Indaing habitat, mixed deciduous habitat, grassland habitat, and cropland habitat. Like other forested areas in Myanmar, CWS is under great pressure from the demands of the local communities, such as crop cultivation and timber. Moreover, grazing, poaching, and fishing in the CWS and surrounding areas has become a serious problem that has negatively impacted the Thamin population. This study deals with changes in the habitat structure of Indaing forest compared to that undertaken by the Smithsonian in CWS over 20 years ago. In addition, the pellet group counting method was conducted to determine the abundance of Thamin in each habitat considered in this study. In the core zone of CWS, 216 random plots in 54 survey blocks were sampled to study the habitat types, plant species richness and diversity, and the abundance of deer, estimated using pellet group count. There were 232 plant species recorded in the seven habitats. The species diversity, especially the number of tree and grass species, decreased because of human disturbance. Canopy cover, ground vegetation cover, and forest area burned, also differed. There were statistically significant differences (p<0.05) in the species richness in all the seven habitat types. The relative habitat composition of CWS was found to be 8.8% mature Indaing, 68.9 % young Indaing, 14.3% seasonally flooded Indaing, 0.9% degraded Indaing, 1.9% mixed deciduous, 0.5% grassland, and 4.6% cropland. Mature and seasonally flooded Indaing habitats had a 95% Sorenson index of similarity for tree species composition. Thamin pellet-groups were also recorded and high densities were found in mature Indaing habitat, which are important for the long-term survival of Thamin.