Tigers in focus
Tue, Jan 26th, 2010 1:16 am BdST
Dhaka, Jan 25 (bdnews24.com) – Bangladesh is stepping up conservation efforts for the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger under an action plan that includes a new census of the Sundarban big cats, which like other tiger populations around the world face tremendous threats from poaching and habitat loss.
According to the last census in 2004, the Sundarbans—the largest unbroken mangrove forest in the world stretching 6,000 square kilometres along the coast of Bangladesh—is home to around 440 Royal Bengals, one of the last significant tiger populations in the wild.
"Our tigers have to be protected for conservation of biodiversity in the Sundarbans and Bangladesh as a whole," state minister for forests Hassan Mahmud said on Monday as he inaugurated a Tiger Immobilization Training Programme at Bon Bhaban, the forest department headquarters in the capital.
The forest department, under its Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan (BTAP) 2009-2017, is jointly running the first ever immobilisation training with Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh (WTB) to ensure safe tranquillising procedures.
The training will help foresters save tigers intruding into human localities where either humans or the tigers are too often killed, said officials.
Mahmud also said 33 forest staff had already received training, for care and management of wild tigers, under the BTAP launched last October.
Tigers are among the world's most threatened species, with only an estimated few thousand remaining in the wild worldwide. A hundred years ago, there were around 100,000.
Tiger ranges have decreased by 40 percent over the past decade alone, and Sundarbans tigers today occupy less than seven percent of their original range.
"Massive public awareness has to be created and forest staff must be properly trained for successful conservation efforts," Mahmud said.
"Nowhere in the world are there so many tigers in the wild. Bangladesh has a responsibility to safeguard them for the world."
The Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, extends across India as well as Bangladesh at the mouth of the Ganges River.
The tigers living in the mangroves of India and Bangladesh may represent as many as 10 percent of all the remaining wild tigers worldwide, say conservationists.
India has just completed its census of tigers, from Jan 5-10, over its 4,000 sq km stretch of the Sundarbans.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, is also competing for the Sundarbans to be included among the 'Seven Wonders of the Natural World' to aid global recognition for the importance of its tiger population and other wildlife.
As well as tigers, the Sundarbans is home to more than 50 reptile species, 120 commercial fish species, 300 bird species and 45 mammal species.
Swiss-based World Wildlife Foundation, the world's largest conservation organisation, has said in a recent statement the threats facing the famous Royal Bengal Tigers highlight the need for urgent international action to save this magnificent Asian big cat and other iconic species around the world.
Scientists fear that accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching could push Sundarbans tigers to the same fate as their now-extinct Javan and Balinese relatives in other parts of Asia.
A WWF-led study, published earlier this month, said rising sea levels also now threaten the Royal Bengal Tiger's survival.
Forests secretary Mihir Kanti Majumder, Dhaka University professor and wildlife expert Anawarul Islam and John Lewis of London Zoo spoke among others at the inauguration of the new training programme, chaired by chief forest conservator Abul Motaleb.