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Is Bangladesh going to fail in doubling tiger population?

  • Published at 02:02 am August 16th, 2019
Tiger-Syed Zakir Hossain
Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

According to the forest department, the number of tigers in Bangladesh has increased by eight in the last three years, which is only 8%. At the same time, the number of tigers in India has increased by 741

Due to the wildlife hunting and trafficking, illegal trade of wildlife, deforestation and environmental catastrophe, not only tigers but other wild animals also became endangered in the world. Considering the situation, the tiger range countries (TRC), including Bangladesh, in 2010 at the Tiger Summit in Russia, decided to double the number of tigers in their respective countries by 2022. 

According to the forest department, the number of tigers in Bangladesh has increased by eight in the last three years, which is only 8%. At the same time, the number of tigers in India has increased by 741.

Now the question is: "Is the Bangladesh Forest Department going to fail to achieve the desired goal of increasing the tiger population within a certain period?"

Comparative factors in increasing tiger population

After the Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, the government, in association with the World Bank took different initiatives to increase tiger population in the Sundarbans. 

After a survey titled "Second Phase Status of Tiger in Bangladesh Sundarbans 2018" under the Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity (Bagh) project, the Department of Forests in May 2019 said that the number of tigers in the Sundarbans has increased from 106 to 114 in the last three years. 

The Forest Department has been promoting the matter as a success. But, the announcement has become a bit dull as neighboring India has set a record of increasing the tiger population at a bigger percentage.

According to data released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India (NTCA) on the occasion of World Tiger Day (July 29), there were 2,226 tigers in India in 2014. In just three years, the number stood at 2967, increasing by around 33%, which is not uncommon for tigers to grow, in comparison to India's vast forests. 

But, if only the number of tigers in the Sundarbans is calculated, Bangladesh is lagging much behind.

According to NTCA, there were 76 tigers in the Indian part of the Sundarbans in 2014. Over the past three years, the number of tigers has risen to 88, which is about 16%. It is to be mentioned that 60% of the Sundarbans is under Bangladesh territory. 

Despite the larger size and greater number of tigers, Bangladesh is far behind India in terms of population growth of Tigers.

The burning question is whether Bangladesh is going to fail to achieve the target?

Tiger researcher Professor Monirul H Khan of the Zoology department of Jahangirnagar University told Dhaka Tribune: "Only India and Nepal have done well in the projects taken to double the tiger population, while others including Bangladesh have not yet yielded the expected results." 

In such circumstances, it is impossible for Bangladesh to achieve the target by 2022, he furthered.

However, the researcher does not think the forest department is going to fail in the overall operation. 

He said: "Bangladesh may be lagging behind India in increasing tiger population, but one thing should be kept in mind that India has taken the project to conserve tigers a long time ago (from 1st April 1973). Bangladesh started only a few years ago. There is no point in saying that the forest department is going to fail due to the overall consideration of the late, and fierce hostile environment at the beginning of the work.”

Forest Reservoir (Finance and Administration) Zahidul Kabir also thinks that achieving the target by 2022 will not be possible. 

He said: “Its promising that the number of tigers in the Sundarbans is increasing. At the same time, it will not be possible to double the number of tigers by 2022.

"However, we are giving special importance to the matter, but we are basically trying to implement the Tiger Action Plan, a project of the Forest Department.”

Zahidul Kabir does not think the forest department has failed. In this regard, he said: "It's not certain that there are only 114 tigers in the entire part of the Sundarbans. Only 1656 square kilometer of the forest was surveyed. The number might increase if the whole forest in the Bangladesh part is surveyed."

What's the future of the Tiger Action Plan?

In addition to the announcement at the Russian Tiger Summit, the Forest Department has taken its own action plan titled 'Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan (20-220)' to increase the number of tigers. 

According to the program, the tiger density is expected to increase from 2.17 to 4.5 per sq km in the Sundarbans, more than twice the number of tigers.

If the plan is implemented and adopted properly, it is very much possible to increase the number, said tiger researcher Monirul H Khan.

He said: "It is not certain that the number increased in the Sundarbans, it can be said easily that the number has not decreased. So, it can be said the situation has improved."

"It is quite certain that the target of doubling the number of tigers will not be achieved by 2022 although we are late in starting the conservation of tigers.”

How to increase the number

When asked about what steps should be taken to increase the number of tigers, Dr. Monirul H Khan told Dhaka tribune: "First of all, the authorities have to declare war on tiger and deer poachers, as the main reason behind the decrease in the number of tigers is poaching."

Secondly, the area of tiger conservation in Sundarbans is to be increased, he suggested adding that, a corridor ought to be established among the main area of the forest, and some of the other scattered mangrove forests near the Sundarbans, so that not only the tigers but also other animals can roam around frequently. 

Mentioning that tigers exist in the deeper part of the forests in the hill tracks, the scientist said: "Extension of the protected areas of the hill forest is also important."