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Govt focuses on keeping animal movement undisturbed in Cox’s Bazar

  • Published at 12:02 am September 23rd, 2018
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Photo: Courtesy: Mushfiq Ahmed

It has taken up a program with IUCN and UNHCR to protect forests, animals and people

The government wants to continue its efforts with other stakeholders to keep the movement of animals, especially elephants, undisturbed following the significant impact on wildlife and subsequent human-elephant conflict due to the setting up of makeshift camps for Rohingyas, officials said.

The makeshift camps have a significant impact on wildlife and food shortage, shrinking habitats and disruption in breeding grounds are affecting nocturnal, metaturnal, crepuscular and diurnal wildlife.

"This is a special problem. We are looking into it to make some arrangement so that their (the animals’ especially elephants) path is not disturbed," said Environment and Forests Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud.

Rohingyas are encroaching on the elephant's habitat in the Cox's Bazar Forest Division and both resident and migratory elephants are facing a continuous shrinkage of their habitat and food supply, according to a status of Asian Elephants in Bangladesh.

To date, 268 resident wild elephants, 93 migratory elephants and 96 captive elephants have been recorded in Bangladesh, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) data shows.

Since the influx in late August last year, coupled with the host community and Rohingyas from past influxes, the crisis-hit population is now almost 1.5 million in Cox's Bazar, creating a massive pressure on the already dilapidated environment there which still remains significantly underfunded, a recent UN report observed.

With this number of people, minister Anisul said, the eco-system is being destroyed following deforestation. "Once you deforest the area, you are going to have consequential changes in the eco-system."

Since the Rohingya refugee influx into Bangladesh last August, at least 13 deaths have been reported over human-elephant incidents in the main Kutupalong-Balukhali refugee settlement, according to UNHCR.

Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mohammad Abul Kalam said there has been no such incident in recent months giving credit to joint efforts.

He said a programis going on with the IUCN and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to reduce incidents involving elephants coming into conflict with Rohingyas living in camps. 

"To protect us, to survive...we need forests, we need animals. We must understand how important this bio-diversity is. Elephants are also part of this bio-diverse eco-system and should be respected," he added.

At a recent program, the minister said the Rohingya problem is not going to be over in the next few years and is worried whether donors will continue supporting Bangladesh for the restoration of environmental balance after Rohingyas leave for their homes.

Some 4,300 acres of hills and forests were cut down to make temporary shelters for Rohingyas and ensure facilities and cooking fuel for them in Ukhia and Teknaf of Cox's Bazar threatening the bio-diversity of the ecologically critical areas of the country, says a new report of the United Nations.

Some of the key impacts are likely to become irreversible if measures are not taken immediately, the report said.

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