This review is of the article “A question of balance” from the April 2004 volume of National Geographic. In the Hukawng Valley of northern Myanmar (what used to be called Burma), a large wildlife sanctuary was created in an uninhabited section of the valley. Now the wildlife sanctuary is being considered for expansion to become the world’s largest tiger reserve. In an earlier time, this plan may not have faced so many challenges. In the years following World War Two, the bridges leading into the valley were destroyed by nature as well as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) who sought to keep out the central government. Now, decades later, the bridges into the Hukawng Valley are being rebuilt. Because of this, tens of thousands of people are moving into the area. They come in search of gold and wildlife for profit. The gold in the Hukawng valley has remained largely untouched for years. Because of this, people are going to great lengths just to find small amounts of it. A small amount of gold can easily equal a month’s pay or more. It is the methods used to extract the gold from the soil that worries environmentalists. The miners start by using high pressure water to blast a hole into the ground. The hole becomes larger and the soil is turned into sludge. Cyanide and mercury are then used to help pull the gold from the sludge. For all of the work that is involved, little gold is retrieved and the environment pays the price. The nearby streams and the ground water is damaged by the poisonous chemicals, any animals drinking water from these sources will most likely be killed. Another problem presented by the gold mining is the large increase of people in the area. There are now thousands of people living in areas were only a hundred lived before. The increase in people means a major drain on the local resources. One of those resources is the wildlife in the area. The tigers in the area must now compete…
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