This year's theme for the World Wildlife Day is partnership for wildlife conservation. But reports coming from the Sundarbans, which is the world's largest mangrove forest, are flying in the face of the call for such partnership. Consider this. The rotting body of a Royal Bengal Tiger and a tiger skin have been found at the Satkhira point of the Sundarbans. Even a large amount of venison has been seized by the law-enforcement agencies. Needless to say, the venison is from Sundarbans' spotted deer, a major source of the Bengal Tiger's food. Obviously, those involved in killing the animals are making huge profits out of the dead wild animals' body parts and flesh. Bangladesh has few pockets of endangered indigenous wildlife. The report provides a glaring instance of how the illicit traders in animals and their body parts are killing the majestic Bengal tiger as well as destroying its food source.
A study report on wildlife trade in Bangladesh prepared by Cambridge University and published in November last year says that trade in wildlife has been taking place openly in 13 districts of the country. As if there is no one to look after them, these wild animals are being caught from different parts of the country and then brought to Dhaka and Chittagong. And from there the animals are trafficked to different countries including India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Singapore and China. Such trafficked animals include Bengal tiger, Lojjaboti Banor (Bengal slow loris), Mukhpora Hanuman (Capped Languir), takkhak (Tokay gecko), reptiles and snakes.
In recent months, the incidents of trafficking in wild animals and their body parts have reportedly increased. Obviously, it is a dangerous trend. And, it is this illicit trade in wild animals and their body parts that has decimated the rhinoceros population in Africa, especially, in South Africa, which has the majority of the rhinos. Rhinos are hunted for their horns. Similarly, elephants are poached for their tusks, tigers for their bone and whisker and Tibetan antelopes, or chirus are hunted for their wools. According to the US state Department, wildlife trafficking is the 'third most valuable illicit commerce in the world' , which brings from US$8 to US$10 billion annually. There is an international effort initiated in 2005 by the US State Department styled, the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT). It is a voluntary coalition of governments and organisations. In Southeast Asia, the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) was established to oversee cross-border cooperation and strengthen collective law-enforcement capacity of ASEAN member countries. Similarly, in South Asia, with the help of CAWT and the Wildlife Trade Network, or TRAFFIC, a global NGO monitoring trade in wildlife, was formed-- South Asian Enforcement Network(SAWEN). But despite these international and regional efforts, trafficking in wildlife is continuing unabated.
The rare wild animals are becoming extinct at a faster rate than before. Unfortunately, the safety of wild animals is at risk not only from the traffickers, but also from the otherwise peaceful villagers who live close to the fast receding forests. They often turn into the enemies of the wild animals. For, due to habitat loss, the animals foray into human settlement in search of food. Small wonder that reports of tiger attacking people in villages in the vicinity of the Sundarbans or wild elephants destroying crops in a village of the Bandarban district, or even killing people, are not rare. And In retaliation, the villagers kill the hapless tiger or the elephant. Even stray, harmless animals accidentally entering populated areas are, sadly, welcomed by stick-wielding people. So, alongside mounting strong monitoring and enforcement measures against traffickers, awareness at the community level needs also to be raised about protecting wildlife.