At least 42,000 wild animals were rescued from smugglers in different parts of the country over the last seven years, a study by Bangladesh’s Forest Department has revealed.
The study released in November last year also said that there were 13 Royal Begal Tigers among the rescued wild animals. Various organs and body parts of the tigers were also rcovered. It said that some of the wild animals were rescued while being smuggled within the country and others were rescued while they were being smuggled outside the country.
Wildlife experts believe the number of wild animals being killed and smuggled is higher than the figures in the study. They said that many cases of wild animals being killed cannot be traced. Many of them were smuggled abroad.
They said that wild animals are also smuggled to 15 private zoos in the country and to some recreation centres and farm houses owned by rich and powerful people.
“There are now only a few cheetahs in Sangu Forest. Royal Bengal Tigers became extinct in other parts of the country and only remain in the Sundarbans,” prominent wildlife expert of the country Reza Khan told Prothom Alo.
The forest department study shows that Myanmar, India and China are the prime destinations for smuggled Bangladeshi wild animals. Wild animals are being smuggled by all three routes- land, water and air. It said that law enforcers and forest department officials rescued Sundarban tigers, deer, snakes and tortoises among the wild animals being smuggled.
Another study conducted jointly by the Wildlife Conservation Society Bangladesh and the Creative Conservation Alliance said that wild animals are being smuggled mainly from two divisions of the country - Khulna and Barisal. The animals are also smuggled from the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Sylhet and the forests near Dhaka. It said that 82 per cent of the smuggled animals are deer. The other smuggled animals are snakes, tortoises and tigers.
A Prothom Alo investigation shows that the government's measures to save wild animals are not adequate. The concerned unit to check wild life smuggling at the forest department is in a poor condition. It is located in the forest department's head office with an office for research in Gazipur. However, the unit’s research department hardly has any activities. There are eight employees in these two offices, but they cannot take up any drive against wildlife related crimes without support from the other law enforcement agencies of the government.
The conservator of forests at the Biodiversity and Wildlife Conservation department, Zahidul Kabir, told Prothom Alo that they do not have an adequate workforce to check wildlife related crimes.
“We are trying hard with our limited capacity to prevent wildlife killings and smuggling. However, the capacity of the department must be strengthened. The department does not have the necessary workforce,” he said.
Wildlife expert Reza Khan is of the same opinion.
“The Royal Bengal Tiger is the symbol of bravery for the Bangladeshi people and this is the national animal. Unfortunately, no single body has been given specific responsibility to save this animal. There is lack of coordination,” he said.
The wildlife expert has urged the government to display highest level of commitment in saving the few Royal Bengal Tigers that still remain in the country.
World Wildlife Day today
Bangladesh will observe World Wildlife Day Today. This year, the theme is: “Big cats: predators under threat". In a statement, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said: "On World Wildlife Day, I call on people around the world to help raise awareness and to take personal action to help ensure the survival of the world’s big cats and all its precious and fragile biological diversity."
* This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Mushfique Wadud.