Myanmar is a known “hot spot” in Southeast Asia for mangrove loss from aquaculture, agriculture, and logging.MKWS is often described by researchers as one the most degraded mangrove systems or national parks they have ever seen.MKWS is a 53-square-mile wetland mangrove reserve located in Myanmar’s far south. IRRAWADDY DELTA, Myanmar – In a country with forests under increasing threat, Myanmar’s southern Irrawaddy Delta is home to one last precious pocket of green: Mein-ma-hla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary. Although the Irrawaddy Delta plays host to the country’s largest remaining area of mangrove forest – 46 percent – here, too, the unique trees are rapidly disappearing and the impact has been devastating. Over the past three decades, about 83 percent of mangroves in the area have been lost, according to Win Maung of Myanmar Environmental Rehabilitation Network. Other estimates are slightly more conservative, at 75 percent. Myanmar is a known “hot spot” in Southeast Asia for mangrove loss from aquaculture, agriculture, and logging. As one of Myanmar’s most densely populated areas with an estimated population of 7.7 million, much of Irrawaddy Delta’s tree loss is caused by human beings. What is left of mangrove forests across the delta’s expanse of 13,500 square miles wasn’t enough to play the natural role of buffer when the deadly 2008 Cyclone Nargis hit. The sturdy trees have hardy, massive roots that grow in thick mud and partially above ground and are extremely resistant to high winds and flood waters. Had the Irrawaddy Delta mangrove forest been intact in 2008, experts believe that thousands of lives could have been saved. Instead, Nargis killed more than 138,000 people. Today, one small solid tract of mangroves remains nestled in a wildlife sanctuary. “When you look at Google Earth, there is only one green area left in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta and that is Mein-ma-hla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary (MKWS),” said Narissa Bax, a Marine biologist for Fauna and Flora International Myanmar. MKWS is an approximately 53-square-mile wetland mangrove reserve located in Bogale Township in Irrawaddy Division. Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar, 1974. Source: USGS Irrawaddy Delta in 2014. Source: USGS Mein-Ma-Hla, which means beautiful woman in Burmese, is an area known for its diverse mangrove tree species and saltwater crocodiles. The sanctuary was established in 1986. However, it has been described as one the most degraded mangrove systems or national parks many researchers have ever seen. Poverty among area villagers, a lack of proper management, and agricultural development are all part of the problem. In a report published by Fauna and Flora International Myanmar in August 2016, Jean W.H Yong, a mangrove consultant with a background in mangrove plant biodiversity surveys and sustainable agriculture development said as much. According to Yong, MKWS has highly disturbed mangrove forest vegetation with extant pockets of high mangrove floristic diversity. In other words, the highly diverse forest is suffering from intensive deforestation due to human activities.