A total of 90 elephants have been killed in Bangladesh in the last 17 years. Among them, 11 were killed this year, said International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and forest department of Bangladesh.
Officials of concerned organisations and departments said the elephant routes have been shrinking rapidly in the country. Three corridors have been destroyed in the last six years. Herds of elephants have been trying to move through human settlements as they are not being able to use their regular routes. That’s why, in panic, people are attacking and killing elephants.
According to IUCN and the forest department, there were 500 elephants in the country at the end of the last century. The number was 263 in 2019. About 55 per cent of the elephants are in Cox’s Bazar.
The number of elephants killed this year is 11. Among them, seven were electrocuted while four, including a three-year-old calf, were shot to death. Until 2017, most of the incidents of killing elephants were recorded in Jamalpur and Sherpur districts. But this year, all 11 elephants were killed in the forests of Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong Hill Tracts. In fact, for the last three years, most of the incidents of killing are being recorded in Cox’s Bazar district.
Addressing the people living around the forest areas, Mihir Kumar Doe said they would compensate if the elephants damage their crops. Last year, they paid Tk 5.3 million as compensation to people whose crops were damaged by the elephants
Rohingya camps were constructed in 2017 in Teknaf and Ukhiya upazilas, the main roaming grounds of elephants in Bangladesh. Earlier, two government establishments were set up on two elephants routes in Ramu. The roaming of elephants has decreased in Fasiakhali, Chunti and Medhakacchapaia forests because of railway construction work since last year.
In 2019, an IUCN study identified several risks regarding movement of elephants. It said the paths the elephants use for movement in Cox’s Bazar, Chattogram and Chittagong Hill Tracts are being occupied regularly. This is leading to scarcity of food for elephants. Besides, people are planting crops clearing forests in those areas. The plantation of Aman crops is also on the rise outside of the forests. The herds of elephants come out of the forests to eat ripened Aman crops. Some people killed elephants, electrocutin and shooting them at those times.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Mihir Kumar Doe, the conservator of Forests for the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Circle, said the roaming grounds of elephants have been shrinking rapidly. That’s why the number of clashes between people and elephants are increasing.
Addressing the people living around the forest areas, Mihir Kumar Doe said they would compensate if the elephants damage their crops. Last year, they paid Tk 5.3 million as compensation to people whose crops were damaged by the elephants. They have taken initiatives to increase the amount of compensation.
IUCN Bangladesh country director Raquibul Amin told Prothom Alo a plan of action is necessary to save elephants in Bangladesh. Their habitation and roaming grounds have to be saved so that they can move without any hindrance.
* The report, originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten for English edition by Shameem Reza