Dubbed the “Indiana Jones of Wildlife Protection” by Time magazine, Alan Rabinowitz was also the driving force behind the Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve and Hponkan Razi Wildlife Sanctuary, a vast, contiguous 8,452-sq-mile (13,602-sq-km) tract of swampy rain forest and jungle-covered mountains that forms the world’s largest tiger reserve. When it was set up by the Myanmar govern ment in 1999, it was estimated that around 100 tigers inhabited the area. However, since then, a combi- nation of poaching and habitat erosion through logging and mining has resulted in a sharp fall in numbers. Some Myanmar experts have even suggested that the creation of the sanctu- ary was merely a ruse by the Tatmadaw military regime to wrest control of the area – and its lucrative uranium, oil, and teak reserves – from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Visits to the Hukawng Valley are currently not allowed, although following the recent reduction in hostilities between the KIA and the Myanmar government, restrictions may well be relaxed in the future.