According to a survey on tigers in the Sundarbans, carried out by German tiger expert Hen Reeds in 1975, there were 350 tigers in the mangrove forest.
A study on the Sundarbans in 2017 by Kent University in the UK, said the number of tigers in the Sundarbans is 121. So the number of tigers in the Sundarbans has fallen by one third in 42 years.
According to a tiger census in 2004, the number of tigers was 440 in Bangladesh. In another tiger census in 2015, the number of tigers decreased to 106.
In 2016, Interpol submitted a report titled ‘Tiger Business in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh’. In the report, Interpol said the number of tigers in the Sundarbans decreased by 76 per cent between 2004 and 2015.
There are many reasons behind the decrease of tigers in the Sundarbans. The number of tigers started decreasing due to industries and commercial establishments sprouting up in the Sundarbans area.
Then there are the tiger poachers. In a Prothom Alo report published on Friday, over three tigers in the Sundarbans are being killed every year. The international organisation for the conservation of wild animals, Traffic, on Wednesday published a report about tiger skin, bones and other body parts of the animal being recovered. According to the report, some 51 tigers were killed between 2000 and 2018 in Bangladesh. The organisation mentioned that two tigers were killed on an average annually till 2014. But over three tigers are being killed annually since 2014, the organisation observed.
These organised gangs have long been smuggling tiger organs and other body parts out of the Sundarbans. This has become a thriving business because no measures have been taken to bring it to a halt.
Interpol apprised the government of the matter. In 2016, Interpol submitted two reports about killing tigers and also small arms trade in the Sundarbans. Interpol in the reports said a gang was active in killing tigers in the Sundarbans. This gang supplied arms to kill tigers, and tiger skin and body parts are smuggled to India.
The members of border guards of two countries are involved in the smuggling. The report named 32 people who supply arms to kill tigers. Those include a ruling party MP, three chairmen of union parishads, and several local leaders of key political parties.
At that time, an Interpol official in Bangladesh told Prothom Alo that he sent the reports to police officials who were posted near the Sundarbans. The official said police officials would take necessary action after carrying out an investigation into the matter. But the fact remains that tiger poaching is increasing. What steps have the police officials taken?
Tiger poaching is highly profitable, so stringent measures have to be taken to destroy the ring of poachers. The central political leaders have to intervene to ensure the local leaders can no longer aid and abet in the tiger poaching. The accountability of law enforcing agencies and the border security forces has to be ensured. If any of them has any connection to this trade, tiger poaching and smuggling will never be stopped.