Forest officials target zero poaching
Forest Department wants to achieve zero poaching in the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and home to the critically endangered Royal Bengal Tigers.
Coming up with the desire in a ceremony organised to mark World Tiger Day at Bon Bhaban in the capital yesterday, department officials said that they want to follow the example of Nepal, as the Himalayan nation is the first to achieve this conservation feat.
Taking part in the discussion, Iqbal Abdullah Harun, additional secretary of environment, forest and climate change ministry said they will give a green light on the matter after receiving an official letter from forest officers.
Mihir Kumar, conservator of forest (CF) of Khulna Circle, said they are doing well to protect the Sundarbans tigers, as the area saw eight percent increase in tiger population since 2015.
As per data from Sundarbans Divisional Forest Office (east) , around 46 tigers have died in the forest since 2001. Eight died of natural causes, 13 were killed by poachers, five were killed by locals and one died during cyclone Sidr.
Mihir narrated what activities are part of their conservation initiative.
"The government upped the punishment for tiger killing and poaching -- from two years' imprisonment to seven years', and from Tk 1 lakh monetary fine to Tk 10 lakh. It declared 52 percent territories of Sundarbans as protected areas. The department initiated smart patrolling and formed 49 village tiger response teams to reduce tiger-human conflict," he said.
Eminent zoologist Monirul H Khan, professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University, said globally, the tiger population saw an upward trend.
He said the majestic feline has gone extinct in three countries including Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, with Malaysia losing 80 percent of its tiger population. "In our estimates, Sundarbans can accommodate around 200 tigers, given the availability of prey."
Referring to the poaching, he said 80 percent of poaching goes unreported in Sundarbans.
Lawmaker Begum Habibun Nahar, special guest of the programme, said some people are driven by greed to poach tigers. The commoners don't usually kill tigers. She urged officials to work on changing the mindset of people living in the vicinity of Sundarbans.
Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Shahab Uddin said once upon a time, Bangladesh had tigers in various regions. But over time, the animals have disappeared except Sundarbans.
"The existence of tigers would make the forest safer, as people won't dare to encroach the forest. We have to think about reintroducing or translocating tigers in other areas of the country," he said.
More programmes marking the day were held in Khulna division. East and west zones of Sundarbans' Divisional Forest Office organised events to celebrate World Tiger Day.
Shamnagar upazila administration and Forest Department jointly held an awareness programme, where speakers underscored the need to protect Sundarbans for its role in biodiversity and protecting coastal areas from cyclones.
The number of Royal Bengal tigers surviving in their natural habitat on Sundarbans' Bangladesh side is currently 114.
The Sundarbans once had the largest number of tigers in the world in a single place. However, due to deforestation and poaching, these majestic wild cats have been identified as an "endangered" species.
Our Satkhira and Bagerhat correspondent contributed to this report