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Dawna Tenasserim: The Land of Cats

Protecting our Feline Natural Heritage

Home to a fifth of the world's 36 cat species

With an incredible 82 percent still forested, the Dawna Tenasserim is home to a remarkable one fifth of the world’s 36 cat species--but they are under increasing threat of extinction. In this report, WWF outlines an eight-point action plan to save them.

Dawna Tenasserim

Stretching across the Myanmar-Thai border, the still relatively unknown landscape contains the largest contiguous forested area - eight million hectares - within mainland Southeast Asia.

Forests cover 82% of the Dawna Tenasserim landscape and serve as important refuges for many wildlife species, including some that are critically endangered or endemic. The Dawna Tenasserim landscape is recognized as one of the Earth’s most biologically significant areas for biodiversity conservation and is one of WWF’s 9 priority places around the world. Ethnic minorities and indigenous groups are an important part of the Dawna Tenasserim, serving in many cases as stewards of the landscape their ancestors have lived in for centuries.

Camera trap surveys in 2018/2019 captured six of the species in Myanmar and Thailand.

Diversity under threat

The seven, possibly eight cat species--little evidence exists that the fishing cats exist in the Dawna Tenassrim--are holding on despite intense pressure from poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss due to land clearing for agriculture, poorly planned infrastructure and retaliation for killing livestock. And they are following a depressing trend of decline in large cats across Asia, such as the recent declaration that leopards are now extinct in neighbouring Laos.

The proposed Dawei-Htee Khee Road that will connect a deep sea port and Special Economic Zone in Dawei, Myanmar with Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia threatens to bisect elephant and tiger migration routes in the Dawna Tenasserim.

WWF’s 8-point action plan to save the Land of the Cats

1) increased investment for conservation and enforcement in critical feline areas
2) increased feline biodiversity surveys
3) identification and protection of wildlife corridors
4) strengthening of ranger units on both sides of the border
5) increased engagement with local communities
6) high level protection of vital wildlife habitat
7) transboundary approach for monitoring and protection of felines
8) close cooperation with national and regional infrastructure planning agencies.

Help us protect our wild cats


Our mission is to stop the degradation of our planet's natural environment, and build a future in which people live in harmony with nature. We want to ensure that the world’s most important fisheries and ocean ecosystems are productive and resilient and improve livelihoods and biodiversity; the most iconic and endangered species are secured and recovering in the wild; the integrity of our most important forests, including their benefits to human well-being, is enhanced and maintained; freshwater ecosystems and flow regimes provide water for people and nature; a global shift toward a low carbon and climate resilient future is achieved; and that sustainable food systems conserve nature and maintain food security.