By Abu Bakar Siddique
The world’s largest mangrove forest Sundarbans considered to be the hub of biodiversity is gradually losing its biodiversity due to rampant poaching of wild animals in and around the forest.
Very recently a tigress fell victim to such poaching. On February 08 this year some tourists spotted a wounded tigress with a nylon rope tied to one of its legs at the Chadpai range in the Sundarbans.
They brought the matter to the notice of the forest department that later rescued the tigress and sent her to Gazipur Safari Park for treatment.
However, after a week the tigress died as the vet failed to ensure her survival as its injury was critical.
The forest department blamed the poachers for the murder of the tigress.
In 2012 a tiger was rescued by the forest department from Satkhira range. The tiger entered a village presumably after it escaped the poachers. It was missing a leg. The forest department sent it to the Gazipur Safari Park.
Like those unfortunate tigress and tiger, several wild animals including Royal Bengal Tiger and its major prey spotted deer have been on the verge of distinction due to poaching over the years to meet the rising demand for wildlife products like meat, bone and horn in the eastern countries, experts working on wildlife said.
Dhaka University professor Dr Anwarul Islam who works on wildlife mentioned the incident of three cubs rescued by the Rapid Action Battalion in 2012 from the capital which were later handed over to the authorities of the Dulahazra Safari Park located in Cox’s Bazar.
Forest Department officials told the Dhaka Tribune that around 10 tigers are poached in a year. They also attributed the reasons to weak surveillance and monitoring.
With an aim to enhance the wildlife conservation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a protocol on September 6, 2011 during the Indian premier’s official visit to Bangladesh.
The protocol says both the countries will undertake initiatives to strengthen cooperation between them on the conservation of Bengal Tigers in different ways, including sharing their experience and knowledge on illegal tiger trafficking and reducing conflicts on border issues.
To implement the agreement a committee comprised of stakeholders from both countries was formed the same year the pact was inked.
However, not a single meeting of the committee has been held so far, a member of the committee who works on tiger conservation said on condition of anonymity.
Yunus Ali, chief conservator of the forest acknowledged the fact saying that there were some correspondence over the issue and they could start joint patrol in the Sundarbans soon to check the wildlife trafficking.
In addition, the government undertook a $36m worth five-year project named Strengthening Regional Co-operation for Wildlife Protection on July 1, 2011, though a very few components of the development programme have been completed.
Of the initiatives under the project, establishing a Wild Life Crime Control Unit is a major initiative and work on this is in progress to some extent, said Monirul H Khan, a professor of Jahangirnagar University who works on wildlife.
Monirul also said that a joint census of tiger population is being held under the project which is the only visible activity of the project.
According to the forest department, the country has 440 Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans as per the tiger census held in 2008.
However, a study carried out by the Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh in 2012 said the number of tigers in the Sundarbans had come down by 69% since 2008 due to illegal poaching and trafficking.