About four years ago, on December 20, 2013, at the 68th session of the United Nations (UN), Thailand proposed to mark March 3 as World Wildlife Day.
World leaders had finally decided that enough Amazon crocodiles and African elephants had been murdered for luxury items such as purses, ivory jewellery, etc, so they gave their consent.
Since then, this day has been celebrated each year under a theme. Last year, it was ‘The future of wildlife is in our hands’. This year, it is ‘Listen to the young voices’.
The UN has spotted it right this year.
According to the UN Population Fund, some 1.8 billion people, or nearly one-quarter of the world’s population, are aged between 10 and 24, the age range defined by the United Nations as “youth”.
Yet, concerns have been raised about trends in youth’s environmental attitudes, beliefs and behaviour, suggesting a decline in personal responsibility for wildlife conservation and environment as a whole among the youth.
In Bangladesh – a country small in terms of landmass but large in terms of biodiversity – and also a country with one of the highest concentration of young populations in the world, it is no different. The youth’s nonchalance or lack of knowledge towards biodiversity or wildlife conservation here is no secret.
What the younger generation needs to know?
The younger generation here need to know that the 2016 assessment of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of 1,619 species under seven groups of wildlife —mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, freshwater fish, crustaceans, and butterflies — found that 31 species have become extinct and 390 are threatened in Bangladesh.
Among those 31 species, 11 are mammals, 19 are birds, and one is a reptile. No species from the other four groups — amphibians, freshwater fish, crustacean, and butterfly — were found to be regionally extinct.
According to the Red List of Bangladesh 2015, the extinct species of Bangladesh include the striped hyena, banteng, blackbuck, grey wolf, Indian rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros, nilgai, sloth bear, Sumatran rhinoceros, swamp deer, wild buffalo, marsh crocodile, bar-tailed tree creeper, Bengal florican, black-breasted parrotbill, Indian peafowl, greater adjutant, greater rufous-headed parrotbill, green peafowl, grey francolin, lesser florican, pink-headed duck, red-headed vulture, rufous-throated partridge, rusty-fronted barwing, white-winged duck, sarus crane, spot-breasted parrotbill, spot-billed pelican, swamp francolin, and white-bellied heron.
As many as 50% of the 1,619 assessed species were found to be of least concern, while 2% were categorised as regionally extinct, 3% as critically endangered, 11% as endangered, 9% as vulnerable and 6% as nearly threatened.
Wildlife acts of Bangladesh
Statistics aside, the clearer picture that the young generation need to understand, is that a country of 170 million people in a space of 1.44 lakh square kilometres needs a rich eco-system and bio-diversity for the long run.
Many don’t know that in order to provide safety and conservation for forest, wildlife and biodiversity and for complying with the provision of article 18A of Bangladesh constitution, the government has enacted wildlife Conservation and Security Act in 2012.
The present scenario of wildlife trafficking in Bangladesh
The following acts are made punishable under this Act as an offence:
- Hunting wild animals without a license
-Transferring wild animals, meat, or uncured trophy parts of wild animals through gift, sale, without an registration certificate
-Entering a sanctuary (an area where capturing, killing, shooting or trapping of wildlife is prohibited)
-Importing and exporting wild animal without CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Certificate or license
-Killing tigers, elephants, cheetahs, lam cheetahs, hoolocks, samber deers, crocodiles, gharials, whales or dolphins.
-Killing birds or migratory birds,
-Abetting and instigating such offences
The right to private defense is respected under section 36 and 37 of the Act. Though killing tigers, elephants, cheetahs and crocodiles, etc, is a highly punishable offence under this Act, but when a person is attacked by a tigers or elephants causing threat to life of such person and such tigers or elephants is killed for saving life of such person, he commits no offence under this Act.
31 species have become extinct and 390 are threatened in Bangladesh
The wildlife areas of Bangladesh at a glance
-Sundarban, the largest mangrove forest in the world has over 58 species of mammals, 55 species of reptiles and around 248 bird species. The Sundarbans harbour a good number of rare and globally threatened animals including estuarine crocodile, fishing cat, common otter, water monitor lizard, gangetic dolphin, snubfin dolphin, river terrapin, marine turtles like Olive Ridley, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle and six species of shark and ray.
-Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) is the biggest and remotest forest range of Bangladesh. CHT provides shelter to approximately 300 wild Asian elephants, two species of bear (Asian black bear and sun bear), two species of python (Burmese and reticulated), over 20 species of turtles, several species of raptors, four species of deer (sambar, Indian hog, chital and barking),four canid species (dhole, golden jackal, red and Bengal fox) and seven species of wild cats (clouded and Indian leopard, marbled cat, leopard cat, jungle cat, fishing cat and Asian golden cat).
-The Rema-Kalenga, Lawachara and Adampur forests of greater Sylhet region support various kinds of macaques and langurs, three kinds of bear (Asian black, sun and sloth, although sloth bears are functionally extinct in Bangladesh), over 100 species of snake and the western hoolock gibbon.
-Tanguar haor is a Ramsar site and an ecologically critical area declared by the Bangladeshi government. It is also situated in the greater Sylhet area. The Hakaluki haor and the Meghna estuary are some of the other Ramsar wetlands of Bangladesh. These Ramsar sites support critical populations of fishing cats, which is a globally endangered species.
Some facts about world wildlife
-Elephants, pangolins, rhinoceros, sharks and tigers are among the most critically poached and trafficked species in the world.
-According to the UN, the biggest threat to wildlife is habitat loss, as well as overgrazing, farming and development. Habitat loss accounts for 80% of the loss in biological diversity.
-At the current rates of extinction, nearly 20% of the world's species could be extinct within the next 30 years.