How did Argentine animals reach Bangladesh?

Patagonian maras are usually 27.5 inches or 70cm long
Prothom Alo

The Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) rescued seven little-known animals along Tushkhali border of Satkhira’s Kolaroa upazila five months ago as these animals were being smuggled to India.

Since these stocky animals have deer-like eyes and rabbit-like ears, the BGB thought it might be wild hares. But when the BGB handed over these animals to the forest department, they then learned these animals were, in fact, Patagonian mara native to Argentina.

The forest department said the BGB rescued seven Patagonian maras, but one later died. The BGB handed over the six animals alive and those are now at a wildlife rescue centre in Khulna.

Patagonian maras are the mammal and relatives to rabbit or guinea pig. Its fore legs are longer than the hind legs. A mara has four digits on the fore feet and three digits on the hind feet. Usually, mara is brown and occasionally blackish.

Speaking to Porhom Alo over mobile phone on Wednesday, Abu Naser Mohsin, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Sundarbans west forest division, said these animals have been sent at a wildlife rescue centre in Khulna. These are endangered animals and its import and export are banned completely, he added.

He observed an international smuggling ring might use Bangladesh as a transit to smuggle these animals to India. Previously, giraffe, zebra, and lion cubs were rescued while being smuggled to India via Bangladesh. These animals are kept at the zoo of the resorts at various Indian states.

Asked on what the forest department would do next about the rescued Patagonian maras, Abu Naser Mohsin, who has long been working at the Wildlife Crime Control Unit (WCCU), said, “We may keep the animals separately at our safari parks for now. But it’s better to take them back to their native country or regions.”

Patagonian maras are native to Argentina. These stocky animals have deer-like eyes and rabbit-like ears.
Prothom Alo

WCCU director ASM Zahir Uddin Akon said these animals have been brought to the country without the forest department’s permission.

However, a former WCCU official told Prothom Alo that many people brought these animals via airport declaring those as pet. Since it hasn’t been possible to take these animals through the Indian airports, these are smuggled to India via Bangladesh land ports.

Veterinary surgeon of Gazipur’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Safari Park Hatem Sajjad Mohammad Zulqarnain had first spotted these animals as Patagonian mara native to Argentina.

He said these animals are usually 27.5 inches or 70cm long. Its tail is short comparing to their eyes and ears. The tail is only 1.5 to 2 inches long. Patagonian maras are herbivorous and weigh 8 to 16 kg. They usually walk but occasionally jump like rabbit and kangaroo. They reproduce once or twice a year and can survive up to 14 years with proper care.

No specific information was found about who, how and when these animals were brought to the county.

BGB Satkhira battalion- 33 commander Lt Col Mohamamd Al Mahmud told Prothom Alo that these animals were rescued on 3 March while being smuggled to India via Tushkhali border of Kolaroa .

No arrest was made in connection with the incident. These animals were being carried in separate bags. After sensing the BGB’s presence, the poachers fled leaving the bags, he added.

Wildlife Conservation Society country representative Jahangir Alam said, “Only rescuing wildlife is not enough. People, who are involved with the business of poaching animals, must also be found out and punished. Otherwise, this crime won’t be curbed.”

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna