Working elephants in Myanmar

Located in South East Asia, Myanmar is SPANA’s newest permanent country. We are working in rural areas to provide veterinary care for working animals, especially oxen, which are heavily depended upon by communities to pull ploughs and transport produce.

We are also expanding our work to improve the welfare of a new species of animal for the charity – the 6,000 Asian elephants that are used in Myanmar’s logging industry.

SPANA runs two mobile veterinary clinics in Myanmar. We also provide training facilities to veterinary students in our Clinical Skills Centre and mobile veterinary clinics. Additionally we support government vets at one of the country’s major universities.

Oxen used to pull in Myanmar

Myanmar at a glance

Population: 51,486,253
Area: 676,578 km2
Location: South East Asia
Capital city: Nay Pyi Taw
Estimated working animal population: 19,093,000 horses, elephants, mules and oxen

SPANA operations:

• Two mobile veterinary clinics visiting villages in rural areas
• Over 24,000 veterinary treatments were provided to working animals in Myanmar in 2017
• Final year veterinary students receive training from SPANA at the Clinical Skills Centre (CSC) and through the mobile veterinary clinics


Professor Dr Ye Htut Aung, SPANA Myanmar Country Director talks about a day in the life of a SPANA vet.

Can you tell us about your background?

I graduated as a vet from the University of Veterinary Science (UVS) in Yezin, Myanmar in 1993, before obtaining my M Phil in Veterinary Medicine and Master of Veterinary Science (MVSc). I studied for my doctoral degree at the University of Veterinary Medicine, in Hannover, Germany. I am Professor and Pro-Rector at UVS, and am now SPANA Myanmar’s Country Director.

What are the main challenges facing working animals in Myanmar?

The main problems are infectious diseases, such as foot and mouth disease, and malnutrition, particularly during the dry season.

How important are working animals in Myanmar?

Working animals are still very important in Myanmar, which remains on the list of Asia’s least developed countries. For instance, there are over 12 million working cattle in the country, and these animals are integral to rural economies, providing almost all the power in agricultural production and acting as a key mode of transport.

Working elephants are a new species for SPANA. What are the main problems facing elephants used in the timber industry?

The main problems facing logging elephants are skin sores caused by harnesses, as well as infectious diseases. We are in the process of developing a new comfortable harness for elephants dragging heavy logs, which will help prevent rubbing and wounds. Spana operations in Padauk Chaung and Kum Pin Cho elephant camps.Infectious viral diseases are a major issue, since they are difficult to treat (particularly in young elephants) and Asian elephants are already endangered. We are looking to tackle the problem by conducting research into how we can prevent and control these diseases.

SPANA has only been working in Myanmar for a short period. What are the key successes so far, and your main goals?

Training for veterinary students in order to improve the standard of treatment given to working animals is a key part of SPANA Myanmar’s work. We have been very successful so far in developing the skills and knowledge of veterinary students by providing practical training on animal welfare, and the diagnosis and treatment of animal diseases.

A man and his ox in MyanmarIn the coming year, in addition to training at the Clinical Skills Centre (CSC), we will be helping newly-graduated vets to gain hands-on experience treating animals in the field – working under the supervision of SPANA vets during mobile veterinary clinic visits. We also hope to establish a SPANA education programme to teach primary school children between the ages of seven and 11 about animal welfare.