Caravan for tigers hits the road
A two-year national awareness campaign with the theme "Tiger is our Pride -- We Will Protect Tigers" will kick off in the capital on February 11.
Initially, a high-tech TigerCaravan will visit 100 strategic locations across the country with a theatre troupe, who will perform 100 street plays on tiger conservation in 100 days, said Chief Conservator of Forest Md Yunus Ali.
The CCF was talking to reporters at a press conference held at The Daily Star Centre on Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue in the capital yesterday.
The campaign is being launched as part of Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity (Bagh), a joint project of the Bangladesh government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), implemented by WildTeam with technical support from Smithsonian Institute and Bangladesh Centre for Advance Studies.
The global population of tigers has alarmingly reduced from 100,000 to about 3,200 in the last 100 years, according to a video clip of the Bagh project played at the press meet.
"All over the world we have lost about 97 percent of tigers. Currently, there are about 3,200 tigers in the world and as per a recent tiger census the number is 106 in Bangladesh," said Ali.
The species that once used to roam all over the country is only found in the Sundarbans now, he added.
In reply to reporters' queries, Ali admitted that public awareness alone cannot increase the tiger population.
"We have two major challenges -- human activities and nature," said the CCF, adding, how greed in the form of poaching and land grabbing is directly and indirectly affecting the tiger population.
He also talked about the forest department's efforts to stop vessels from using the channels within the forest where incidents like oil spills threaten its ecological balance.
In reply to another question, he said he was not aware that the Department of Environment had recently given permission to set up factories on the periphery of the forest.
On the coal-based Rampal Power Plant being built within 14km of the world's largest mangrove forest, the CCF said a Unesco team would visit the country next month to assess its eventual impacts on the forest.
"The ecological principle must not be violated at any cost," he noted.
Zahir Uddin Ahmed, conservator of forest, Khulna Circle, said pug-mark-based survey in 2004 showed there were 250 tigers in the Indian part of the Sundarbans and 440 on the Bangladesh side, which is larger in area.
"Through camera trapping, a more scientifically accepted method, it was found last year that there were 76 to 250 tigers on the Indian side and 83 to 130 in the Bangladeshi part of the forest," he added.
He talked about threats tigers face from wildlife traffickers and also contraction of their territory, saying how the conservation project helped improved patrolling.
"We need to get information about tigers which includes where they breed, how they maintain their territory and how they get food," he said, adding that 32,000 people have been engaged in reducing conflicts between tigers and humans living in the Sundarbans region.
Starting with the TigerCaravan, the awareness campaign will roll on to other programmes such as concerts, mobile apps, and continued social media activities in order to educate people about this rare feline species, The Bengal Tiger, and help prevent them from extinction, said Md Nasir Uddin, communications specialist of USAID's Bagh Activity.
The Daily Star is a strategic partner of this two year-long campaign.
Karl Wurster, deputy director, Economic Growth and Environment and Energy team Leader, USAID Bangladesh, and Prof Md Anwarul Islam, chief executive of WildTeam and chairman of zoology at Dhaka University, also spoke at the programme.