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What should be considered to reintroduce tigers in CHT?

  • Published at 12:02 pm September 13th, 2020
File Photo

Bangladesh has 114 tigers in the Sundarbans at the moment

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has recently approved a proposal given by the Forest Department to justify the living condition of tigers in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

Tiger habitat, prey animals, roaming areas and human settlement are the key components to consider before releasing tigers in (CHT),

Under this proposal a survey will be done where experts will see if there is any existence of Bengal tigers in CHT at present, and they will also study to find out whether the situation is favourable to release some tigers from other habitats. 

Md Amir Hosain Chowdhury, chief conservator of Forests said: “Earlier, CHT was the host of a huge number of tiger populations. In the last three years, pugmarks have been seen several times. Experts will examine where these pugmarks came from, and then they will justify the living condition for tigers in CHT.”

Also Read- Tiger population at risk in Sundarbans: 38 tigers died in 20 years in Bangladesh

“If everything goes well, we will release some tigers in CHT. It will be decided later whether the tigers released are  from the Sundarbans or other sources,” he said.

“The survey report will be available in June next year,” he added.

Issues need to be considered

Experts said the diversity and availability of prey animals, tiger habitat, roaming areas. uncontrolled animal hunting and human-tiger conflict have to be taken under consideration during the survey study.

Dr M Monirul H Khan, professor of Zoology of Jahangirnagar University said: “CHT is more suitable for tigers than the Sundarbans, as CHT has a diversity of prey animals. Unfortunately, natural forests are decreasing and already most parts of the forest have been destroyed.”

“Sundarbans have only two preys for tiger grossly; boar and deer. But in CHT, there are three types of deer, boar and other mammals of different types for tigers to prey on. However, the population of prey animals has decreased over time,” he said. 

“Releasing tigers is not an easy matter. Preying and its sustainability are important. Otherwise, the released tigers may vanish.”

“Human settlement is a conflicting issue for releasing wild tigers. And animal hunting by humans is a common and traditional practice in CHT. This issue has to be considered during the survey,” Monirul said.

“Hunting has to be controlled before releasing any tigers in CHT as the human population living on the hill tracts have a tradition of hunting,” Monirul added.

File photo of a Royal Bengal Tiger | Syed Zakir Hossain/ Dhaka TribuneAfter the survey is done,  the authorities will then have to increase the number of prey animals and their protection. Once these are taken care of,  the matter of releasing wild life will fall into place. 

Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmed, former chief conservator of Forests said: “At first, we have to know when and why the tiger population disappeared from CHT. The answer to this question will say what lacking the area has in hosting a large tiger population.”

“The tiger is a solitary animal. It does not share its territory with another tiger. Even a tigress maintains a separate territory of prey. Thus, human settlements and the availability of prey animal are the vital issues that needs to be considered first,” he said

“A Royal Bengal Tiger needs 25 square kilometre of territory for himself alone,” he added.  

Is CHT hosting tigers currently?

Experts said that a huge number of tigers used to roam the wild in CHT, but now very few tigers exist in the area. 

Ishtiaq, also the former country representative of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said: “We have to first find out whether the pugmarks seen in CHT is from the residential tiger  group or from migrated tigers from India and Myanmar who roam through the border areas.”

“A tiger does not share territory, so some tigers may have established habitats within the territory of India, Myanmar and Bangladesh, as tigers do not know state boundaries,” he said. 

But Monirul H Khan is more determined that the CHT is still home to some Royal Bengal Tigers. 

He said: “A few tiger populations exist in CHT at present. There is evidence of tigers in CHT. There is even evidence of tiger hunting in CHT. It is not common knowledge to all, but local people know.”

“Dampa Tiger Reserve Forest of India is close to north of Rangamati. And in Bangladesh, the Kasalong Reserve forest has wild tigers.  Dampa and Kasalong are nearby. Therefore inter-communication of tigers between these two reserve forests is possible,” he added.  

Currently Bangladesh has 114 tigers in the Sundarbans.