Bangladesh tiger poachers to face life in prison
(AFP) – May 10, 2010
DHAKA — Poachers in Bangladesh could soon face life in prison under legal reforms aimed at protecting wildlife, including the critically endangered Bengal tiger, an official said Monday.
Under the country's existing law, which dates from 1974, the maximum penalty for a wildlife poacher or smuggler is a 2,000 taka (30 dollar) fine and a two-year prison sentence.
The laws are "outdated and too lenient" to preserve the country's rapidly shrinking big game populations, including the Bengal tiger, the government's top conservation official told AFP.
"We are now amending the law to fight poachers who have become increasingly sophisticated and are now often armed. They must be stopped," Tapan Kumar Dey said.
Dey said the government has already formulated the new Bangladesh Wildlife Preservation Act, under which a poacher could be sentenced to a maximum life term and fined up to 300,000 taka.
Bangladesh's cabinet is expected to approve the law later this month and then send it to parliament for final approval, he added.
The new law -- a summary of which has been seen by AFP -- also boosts protection of ancient forests.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) more than 13 species have become extinct in Bangladesh over the past 40 years, and over 100 species are now considered endangered or critically endangered.
The country's human population has tripled during the same period, while forest cover has shrunk to just 10 percent of land mass, resulting in more frequent clashes between people and animals, experts say.
Bengal tigers, which used be found all across the country five decades ago, are now confined to the Sunderbans, the world's largest mangrove forest.
Experts say only 200 big cats now live in the forest, down from 440 in 2004 -- thanks largely to poaching by smugglers and mob beatings by villagers who are traditionally hostile to tigers.