Worries grow as Sundarbans wildlife conservation in danger
Bagerhat, Khulna: Wildlife conservation in the Sundarbans is in jeopardy as the hunting and smuggling of wild animals has reportedly seen an increase in recent times.
Forest Department officials here told UNB that the seizure of hides of wild animals during recent anti-smuggling drives conducted by them as well as members of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) have cutting a very worrisome figure, prompting them to impose a temporary ban on the plying of motorised trawlers on the rivers and canals through the Sundarbans.
Three tiger skins, 43 spotted-deer skins, 29 tiger teeth and 24 pieces of tiger bones have been seized, while eight members of alleged smuggling cartels operating in the Sundarbans arrested during the anti-smuggling drives in the forest areas in Bagerhat, Barguna and Satkhira districts over the last five weeks, said the officials.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the Sundarbans (East Zone) Amir Hossain Chowdhury said the temporary ban on the plying of any kind of motorised trawlers on the rivers and canals in the Sundarbans has been in effect since 10 February in a bid to curb the hunting and smuggling of the wildlife.
The Forest Department records show that at least 49 tigers -- the flagship species of world's largest mangrove forest -- have been killed over the last one decade from 2001 to 2014 due to various reasons, including straying of the big cat in human habitats and hunting by smugglers.
However, people living in the regions claimed the number should be much higher because the incidents of tiger killing by smugglers are taking place very frequently in their vicinity.
The fact that the law enforcement agencies arrest some smugglers with one or two tiger hides once in a while does not reflect the magnitude of the smuggling. Smugglers lay traps made of nylon ropes as well as use gunfire to hunt tigers, the local people said.
They also added that the hunters also hunted a huge number of spotted deer – the main prey of the big cats – and saltwater crocodile are hunted from the Sundarbans.
Tiger cubs are also hunted alive and then smuggled abroad through an international wildlife smuggling network. The smuggling is based on several villages inside the Sundarbans, the local people added.
Bangladesh has a tiger population of 440, shows the Forest Department record.
According to the Saint Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation, the 13 tiger range countries are committed to striving to double the number of wild tigers across their range by 2022 by doing everything possible to effectively manage, preserve, protect, and enhance habitats.
But, scientists think that it is quite impossible to increase tiger population in the Sundarbans to double by 2022 in a limited forest area, only 6,017 square kilometers.
The nine-point Dhaka declaration, adopted by 13 tiger range countries at the 2nd Tiger Stocktaking Conference in September this year, also recommended a number of actions to double the tiger population by 2022.
The proposed measures include increasing investment in frontline staff remunerations and other facilities, conserving tiger habitats, enhancing collaboration and knowledge sharing, restoring tigers in their former habitats, developing new partnerships with business and industries, increasing flow of funds, building awareness and engaging the communities to deal with human-tiger conflict.