Ranked as one of the most important conservation areas for tigers and Asian elephants in the world.

 rel= © Neil Gogate / WWF Greater Mekong

Majestic mountain jungles

The rugged watersheds of the Tenasserim, Dawna, and other mountain ranges drain into the mighty Tenasserim, Salween, and Chao Phraya rivers, supporting globally endangered and endemic species as well as a diversity of human cultures.
The Kayah Karen Tenasserim Ecoregion comprises mostly moist forests with the area receiving rain from both the northeast and southwest monsoons. There are over 70 protected areas in this vast region that spans over 216,000 square kilometers, which is about half the size of California!

Biodiversity highlights

  • Endemic species such as Fea’s muntjac (Muntiacus feae), Kitti's hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai), Gurney’s Pitta (Pitta gurneyi), Burmese Yuhina (Yuhina humilis)
  • Globally threatened species including the tiger (Panthera tigris), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus), White-winged Duck (Cairina scutulata), Storm’s Stork (Ciconia stormi), Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus), Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis), the rare plant Rafflesia kerrii
  • Substantial populations of wild bovids including gaur (Bos gaurus), banteng (Bos javanicus), and one of the only populations of wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) in Asia

Diverse cultures

Karen and Mon people live in this ecoregion and many other indigenous cultures call this area home. In many ways, the traditional practices of these groups provide a template for sustainable use of the region’s rich natural resources. Long-cycle crop rotation practices used for hundreds of years have maintained forest successional diversity, which in turn has sustained healthy populations of native fauna.

Indigenous cultures within this ecoregion rely on elephants for many tasks from hauling logs to basic transportation; these captive animals are often treated almost as members of the family.

Conservation challenges

  • A long border region means growing pressure for roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure between Thailand and Myanmar
  • Fragmentation in many areas
  • Proposed dams on the Salween, Tenasserim, and other rivers

Much of the forest remaining in Myanmar remains unprotected and is vulnerable to logging and clearance for agriculture.

Intensive hunting of wildlife occurs in both Myanmar and Thailand. Unsustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products is prevalent throughout the ecoregion. Some areas have been subjected to seasonal forest fires, the impacts of which are unclear.

WWF's work in Kayah Karen Tenasserim

Thematic emphasis: landscape species conservation focusing on tigers and elephants

Fieldwork approach:
selection of strategic sites to enhance landscape integrity and connectivity; conservation and restoration of habitat to benefit wildlife and human populations

Landscape strategy & planning: landscape integrity and connectivity; transboundary conservation challenges; maintenance of ecosystem services

Collaboration & coordination: work closely with government and other partners to identify common strategies, landscape conservation priorities, and complementary field activities. Trans-boundary cooperation with Myanmar is essential for long-term ecoregion integrity.

© Supol Jitvijak / WWF Greater Mekong
Misty mountains in Kuiburi National Park, Kayah Karen Tenasserim, Thailand
© Supol Jitvijak / WWF Greater Mekong
© WWF Thailand
Camera trap photo of a tapir in Kuiburi National Park, Kayah Karen Tenasserim, Thailand
© WWF Thailand
© Passanan Cutter
A Karen family travels to a neighboring village by elephant.
© Passanan Cutter

Fast facts

Asian Barred Owlet, Glaucidium cuculoides.
© Asian Barred Owlet, Glaucidium cuculoides.
© Tanasin Yumnoi © Tanasin Yumnoi

  • This ecoregion shares a 2200 km border with Myanmar

Map of the Kayah Karen Tenasserim ecoregion.
© Map of the Kayah Karen Tenasserim ecoregion.
© WWF Greater Mekong © WWF Greater Mekong