Ko Myo

6x6 Southeast Asia and Oceania Talent: Ko Myo, Myanmar

“Ko Myo uses his critical eye and technical precision - developed through years of studying a single theme and developing a nuanced collection of imagery - to explore various issues related to the crossroad between tradition and modernity at which Myanmar now finds itself.” - Matt Grace, UK, founder and director of Myanmar Deitta and 6x6 nominator

Min Myo Nyan Win, also known as Ko Myo, is a documentary freelance photographer. Through documenting the lives of elephants in Myanmar, he aims to make the illegal poaching known to the world through his photography and encourage a better relationship. Ko Myo participated in a photography course at Myanmar Photographic society, and has received awards from the Yangon Photo Festival.

Myanmar’s Wild Elephants Under Threat

There is increasing appetite in China for elephant skin, teeth, tusks, tails, and body parts that are used in traditional medicine and jewellery. This demand has turned Myanmar into a poaching hotspot where elephants are typically shot with poisoned darts and die a prolonged and painful death before being skinned, or decapitated for their tusks. At least 115 wild elephants have been slaughtered by poachers within the past five years in the dense jungles. This spike has increased international support for the country’s plan to protect elephants. The government organises public ceremonies to incinerate contraband animal parts. There are now fewer than 50,000 wild Asian elephants, of which 1,000 to 2,000 live in Myanmar. This is down from 10,000 twenty years ago, and elephants could be wiped out by 2030. Myanmar also faces another big challenge in saving its elephants from the threats of deforestation and climate change.

Beautiful Girl

A newborn calf was left by her mother who was forcefully driven away by villagers, during a monsoon in 2016 in Myanmar. Later, the villagers brought the orphaned calf to the community vet in charge of a elephant shelter in Kyankin township, Ayarwady Division. The relationship between the calf and the caretaker grew stronger and stronger, but the chance of survival for her was very slim. She was fed with milk made from milk powder for humans, which caused her malnutrition and diarrhea. The calf was placed with female elephants but the attempts failed as she was not used to fellow elephants. Finally, the shelter gave her hand-extracted milk from working elephants at the shelter and human milk from mahouts’ wives. Sadly, after 23 days of care, the calf died. Her funeral was held with Buddhist monks chanting. For remembrance, her caretaker unearthed her bones from the graveyard to keep with him.