We classified land cover in the Northern Forest Complex in Myanmar using satellite imagery (MODIS/NDVI) and field surveys carried out in 2001, 2004 and 2005. Using Landsat TM/ETM+ images from 1991 and 1999 we determined deforestation rates. The c. 22,000 km2 Northern Forest Complex, including the Hkakabo Razi National Park in northern Kachin State, is characterized by tropical to subtropical pristine forests with low human impact. The area studied, which includes land beyond the boundaries of Hkakabo Razi National Park, is of special conservation importance because it provides a refuge for many rare plant and animal species. Less than 1.4% of the area is affected by humans (excluding hunting) and deforestation rates are low at <0.01% annually. We observed several bird and mammal species that are considered threatened elsewhere. Based on our data, those of previous surveys, and the fact that >10 new vertebrate species have been described in the region since 1999, it is likely there are still undescribed vertebrate species to be discovered. We recommend extending the boundaries of Hkakabo Razi National Park to the south and west, connecting it to Hpongkan Razi Wildlife Sanctuary, and/or adding an additional sanctuary in the Naung Mung area, to protect the vast yet still pristine rainforest habitats that are home to many of the most important aspects of the region's biodiversity.
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