Poachers are indiscriminately hunting and selling birds, especially herons, posing a serious threat to wildlife at Hakaluki Haor, one of the country's largest natural water bodies.
Poachers say they catch the birds, that are in good demand for consumption, without facing restrictions from the authorities concerned although poaching is banned under The Wildlife (Protection and Safety) Act 2012.
Environmentalists say killing of birds, if continues, will affect the ecological system of the huge marshland. Hakaluki Haor is an 'ecologically critical area' having international importance for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands, they observed.
However, poachers are deaf to the facts.
Ali Hossain, 35, at Kathaltoli Bazar of Borolekha upazila, is the one catching and selling birds on regular basis with traps.
“I trap birds and sell those at different markets. Some people place advanced orders for herons, a fact that attracts me,” he told this correspondent, expressing his ignorance about any law against bird hunting.
Even commercially reared birds in the area are not spared by the poachers who recently poisoned to death 200 ducks owned by Lilu Miah at Balijuri Beelpar in Borolekha upazila.
Lilu Miah filed a case with Borolekha police station in this regard on January 9 against the poachers Joynal Miah, Milon Miah, Rojjak Miah, and Aian Miah in Tamilpur union.
On December 9, forest officials seized 20 birds from poachers at Gourbeel in Kulaura upazila. The gang had caught those from Hakaluki Haor.
Mizan Miah, 25, a poacher, said a good number of people regularly catch herons, which flock to the wetland in search of food, and sell those at Balapukur Bazar.
Such indiscriminate poaching is threatening existence of the herons, said an elderly farmer, Hossain Sarker, 82.
“Earlier I saw a lot of herons flocking to the local beel (water body) in search of fish but the scene is becoming rare now,” he said.
Shrinking of water bodies, decrease of indigenous fish species and mindless poaching are mainly responsible for the situation, said Sarkar of Pusainagar village of Kulaura upazila.
Mahbubur Rahman, divisional forest officer [wildlife and nature conservation department] of Sylhet, said The Wildlife (Protection and Safety) Act 2012 has a provision of awarding one year jail and a fine of up to Tk 1 lakh or both to the bird poachers.
“With the help of law enforcers, I will conduct drives against bird poachers if I get any information,” he said, admitting that it was important to build awareness on conservation of biodiversity.