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Moscos Islands Wildlife Sanctuary

13°47'-14°28'N, 97°46'-97°56'E; in the Andaman Sea, 20-30 km off the Tenasserim coast and 40-60 km from Tavoy, Tenasserim Division.

Area of wetlands unknown; Wildlife Sanctuary 4,924 ha.


Biogeographical Province:

Wetland type:
03, 04, 05 & 07.

Description of site:
Three groups of small islands off the Tenasserim coast, lying on a north-south axis and stretching over some 70 km of sea. The islands comprise North Moscos (or Heinze Islands), Middle Moscos (or Maungmagan Islands) and South Moscos (or Launglon Bok Islands). The islands generally rise steeply from rocky shorelines to a north-south oriented watershed. They constitute the exposed peaks of underwater ridges, formed by late Tertiary tectonic movement and by volcanic activity. Altitudes range from sea level to about 300m on most islands. The largest island is Auk Bok, in the South Moscos group, measuring about 10 km by 2.4 km, and which, in common with a number of the other larger islands, features sandy bays and sheltered anchorages. Coral reefs are found around the South Moscos islands, and probably exist elsewhere in the sanctuary. The sea between the islands and the mainland averages about 24m in depth, and nowhere exceeds 40m.

Climatic conditions:
Monsoonal climate with little or no rain during the cold season from December to Febuary. The mean annual rainfall at Tavoy, some 13 km inland, is 5,451 mm, the wettest months being May to October. Mean maximum and minimum temperatures at Tavoy are 37°C and 14°C, in April and January respectively.

Principal vegetation:
The islands are covered with climax southern low tropical evergreen forest, which is at its most luxuriant in the South Moscos group. However, this primary cover, dominated by Dipterocarpus spp, has been modified to a certain extent by illegal felling. Lianas Calamus spp and epiphytes are abundant, and there are small areas of mangrove in the tidal zone. The beach vegetation includes some Agathis sp. Bamboo is uncommon, although there is a limited amount of Neahouzeaua stricta (FAO, 1982d).

Land tenure:
No information.

Conservation measures taken:
The islands were designated as a Game Preserve in 1924, under the Burma Game Rules 1917. The area was reconstituted as a Wildlife Sanctuary in September 1927.

Conservation measures proposed:
In 1982, it was recommended that (a) the collection of turtle eggs and swiftlet nests should cease immediately; (b) boundaries should be clearly marked and effectively guarded; (c) the three main islands of the South Moscos group and associated islets (totalling 2,330 ha) should be designated as a Marine National Park; (d) Middle Moscos should either remain as a Wildlife Sanctuary or be upgraded to a Nature Reserve; and (e) North Moscos should be excised from the sanctuary and revert to unclassed forest without special protection (FAO, 1982d).

Land use:
Collection of sea turtle eggs, collection of swiftlet nests and fishing. There are no residents on the islands, although fishermen set up temporary camps during the dry season. Besides fishing, these people are engaged in some timber felling and collect other forest produce from within the sanctuary.

Disturbances and threats:
Sustained high levels of egg-harvesting have significantly reduced the breeding population of sea turtles in the sanctuary, and the colonies of swiftlets are similarly threatened by over-exploitation. Illegal logging and collection of forest produce threatens the forest cover (FAO, 1982d). An attempt was made in 1924-1929 to introduce Sambar Cervus unicolor, Indian Muntjak Muntiacus muntjak, Wild Boar Sus scrofa and Hog Deer Cervus porcinus (Tun Yin, 1954). Of these introductions, only S. scrofa is still present on the islands.

Economic and social values:
Some 60,000 turtle eggs were collected annually in the l930s. Current egg harvests number about 30,000 from South Moscos and 9,000 from the Middle Moscos group. All eggs laid are collected by a concessionaire based on Auk Bok, under license from the Forestry Department. Nests of the Edible-nest Swiftlet Collocalia fuciphaga are collected by Thaya Kone Village Cooperative Society, under a concession from the Forestry Department. In 1982, market prices for the nests ranged from US$286 to US$1,200 per kg. Current production averages about 28 kg per annum, which represents a decline of some 41% over the level achieved during 1951-1956. The swiftlet colony on Cradle Rock is now considered to be too small for commercial exploitation.

The islands appear to be poor in terrestrial wildlife, possibly due to the presence of feral dogs. Wild Boar Sus scrofa and Crab-eating Macaque Macaca fasicularis are common, and mouse deer Tragulus sp and monitor lizards Varanus are also present. Sea turtles nested widely on all three island groups in the 1930s, but populations are now much reduced. Green Turtles Chelonia mydas are known to be present, and several other species may occur. The avifauna includes Egretta sacra, Haliaeetus leucogaster and Ducula bicolor. Edible-nest Swiftlets Collocalia fuciphaga nest in caves on Hgnettaik Kyun in the South Moscos and on Cradle Rock in the Middle Moscos.

Special floral values:
No information.

Research and facilities:
The harvests of turtle eggs and swiftlet nests have been monitored by the Forest Department, and Chhibber (1927) surveyed and described the geography of the region. The Middle and South Moscos groups were briefly surveyed in 1982 (FAO, l982d). There are no visitor facilities on the islands.

Chhibber (1927); FAO (1982d & l985a); IUCN (in prep); Salter (1983); Tun Yin (1954).

Criteria for Inclusion:
1b, 2a, 2c.

See references.