By Abu Bakar Siddique
The International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) has shown interest in visiting Bangladesh to investigate wildlife trafficking in the country, following the recent arrest of six poachers.
“We have already sent their [Interpol’s] application to the Home Ministry with positive recommendation,” Mahabubur Rahman Bhuiyan, assistant inspector general of police, told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.
“We are waiting for the ministry’s approval, following which we will decide how to prepare and proceed in this regard,” said the AIG, also the in-charge of the Interpol desk at Bangladesh Police Headquarters.
RAB arrested the poachers in Satkhira on October 17, and recovered two tiger skins. In 2012, the elite force rescued three Bengal Tiger cubs from a poacher’s residence in the capital. The cubs were later placed under the custody of the Forest Department.
South Asia is home to world’s 13-15% biodiversity, including some of the world’s most endangered species, including the Bengal Tiger.
The world’s tiger population has declined alarmingly, mainly due to poaching and the encroachment of tiger habitats, which stands now around 3,000.
Some 65% of the 3,000 or so remaining wild tigers are found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal’s forest ecosystems, which make the region a lucrative place for illegal wildlife trade.
The Bangladeshi side of the Sundarbans is home to around 440 tigers, according to the last tiger census conducted in 2004. But experts say the number is decreasing day by day due to illegal poaching and trafficking.
Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad, country representative of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said the Interpol should be allowed to run the investigation in Bangladesh to find the exact situation of wildlife trafficking in the country.
Ishtiaq, also a former chief conservator of forest, said poachers had been arrested from time to time in the country with body parts of different wildlife species or body parts in their possession – aiming to export them since there is no such market in the country.
Products made from the body parts of wildlife species are high in demand globally, especially in the US, China and the European Union.
The Bangladesh-India border in the Sundarbans is especially a vulnerable area and is considered a major trafficking route, so the authorities should look into it and seal it off, if necessary, for the sake of wildlife protection, he said.
With an aim to protect the wildlife from trafficking, the governments of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan started a project named Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection in Asia in 2012 to conserve wildlife and tackle poaching. The project supports wildlife protection and conservation in participating countries.