Debate rages over existence of tigers in CHT
Royal Bengal Tigers roam the forests of India and Myanmar adjacent to the Chittagong Hill Tracts. People in Bandarban, a district of CHT, have often experienced tiger attacks on its cattle or saw tigers in deep forests. Researchers, however, still in debate over the very existence of tigers in CHT part of Bangladesh.
No government or organisational study on tigers has just made the debate wide.
Proof of the existence of tigers have been found in the end of February this year at the hill-surrounded landscape near the bank of the River Shankha that falls under Thanchi upazila of Bandarban, 338km south-east to Dhaka.
People in Rung Shola Para, which is under Remakri union at Thankchi upazila of Bandarban, gave details of a tiger attack on their area.
While visiting Rung Shola Para it has been known, three years ago local people used to hunt tigers in the nearby forest. Alexender Tripura is the last person, who hunted a tiger in that area. He kept the teeth of the tiger. Now he put one of the teeth with beads of a necklace used by his son Thomas.
Alexander’s wife, Khumbati, said they believe putting a tiger’s tooth in the necklace of the child will keep him away from diseases.
She said her husband used to hunt tigers around 15 years ago.
Khumbati also said: ‘In 2012, Alexander killed a huge tiger. They ate the meat, and sold away the bones, skin and other parts of the tiger. ‘Our family also collected four teeth of the tiger,’ she added.
She said Alexander also killed a tiger in 2008. The hill people grilled the tiger, which weighed 57kg without the bones, and ate it away.
Alexander, however, preserved the skin of the tiger he slew in 2012. Later, he sold the tiger skin and teeth to a four-member team from Myanmar only for Tk 3,500. After 2012, no tiger was hunted.
Records show that two tigers were killed in Kasangkhali reserve forest in 2003 and another near Remakri canal in 2006.
On the other hand, a tiger was seen in Raingkheong reserve forest in the year of 2009.
A report published on the Guardian, a British daily, in 1 March claimed 13-centimetre pugmark of a tiger was discovered in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Mostofa Firoz, a Zoology professor of Jahangirnagar University, said, ‘Pugmark of a tiger was found over the hills. Actually, once there were tigers near the Shangu valley and neighbouring areas. There are tigers in its East. That means in Myanmar National Park. It is not confirmed yet that the pawprint which has been discovered recently is our local tiger.’
He said it is not unusual to see roaming a tiger in these areas. He, however, is not sure about the presence of tiger as no organised study or survey was conducted yet.
He said once the tigers in CHT were not different from that of Sundarban, the world’s largest tidal halophytic mangrove forest situated in Khulna, Bangladesh.
Mostafa Firoz, said, ‘Little work has been done to conduct a proper survey of the tigers of CHT region, mainly due to remoteness and political instability of the area.’
However, zoologist Anisuzzaman Khan said, ‘there might be a few tigers in Bangladesh territory, but once they were available. Most of the tigers are now living in the reserve forests of India and Myanmar. That tigers come to Bangladesh territory in search of food.’
Recently, tigers have been seen at Pablakhali, Shajek, Lama, and Kasalong, said Anisuzzaman.
‘May be there were a few tigers in Bandarbans seven years ago, but now there is no existence of tigers in that area,’ he added.
He, however, admit it that the hills are suitable for tiger habitat.
About the extinction of tigers from the area, the zoologist said the numbers of tigers dropped sharply due to shortage of food.
An adult tiger needs food equal to 50 sambar deer or around 3,000kg flesh a year.
Environmentalists complained that neither Bangladesh forest department nor the government are concerned enough about the forest and wildlife in the hilly region. The government does not even have a plan to protect the wildlife.
Although, they can protect the wildlife in mountains by making the indigenous groups aware.
Bandarban chief curator of forest Yunus Ali said there was never been any government survey for tracking the population of tigers.
Conservator of the forest Ashit Ranjan Pal said: ‘Our data says there is no Royal Bengal tiger in the area. There might be some fishing cats in the region.’
However, hope is not died yet, Creative Conservation Alliance (CCA), a Bangladesh-based organisation has been working in the Chittagong Hills Tracts for five years to preserve Bangladesh’s last remaining wild places.