As a part of its long-term plan for wildlife – including elephants – the forest department is planning on afforesting the World Life Protected Corridor for wildlife conservation. Plants that provide food for wildlife will be planted in this corridor.
Also, about 2,000 acres of land will be afforested in Chattogram with trees suitable for wildlife.
Due to the government's development projects, the amount of forest cover is decreasing and wildlife is facing a crisis of habitat and food.
Asian elephants, which are on the red list of endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Forests (IUCN), are the prime victims. Due to the closure of the elephant movement corridor in the Chattogram area, they are facing a food crisis and are coming to the area but many are dying.
At least 23 elephants have died in the Chattogram region in the last two-and-a-half years.
If these long-term afforestation projects are implemented, the people concerned think the death rate of elephants coming to the locality will also be reduced.
According to the forest department, about 12 lakhs saplings – including 20 to 25 species of plants suitable for feeding wildlife – will be planted on 2,062 acres in the two ranges of wildlife and nature conservation, within this month.
This protected corridor will be constructed in an area of 180 acres, initially, under the Cox's Bazar south forest department. The department will plant in 150 acres of the area and the United Nations's Food and Agriculture Organization will plant on the remaining 30 acres.
If 2,500 saplings are planted per hectare, in the short and long term, a total of 1.8 lakhs saplings will be planted this season.
Jarul, Telshur, Chapalish, Bot, Dhaki Jam, Puti Jam, Black Jam, Garjan, Varta, Kadam, Bailam, and other species will be planted as food for wild animals.
Cox's Bazar south forest divisional forest officer Humayun Kabir said, "We have already undertaken a five-year project to protect wildlife, especially wild elephants. The project will be implemented in different areas of the southern forest department. Once this project is implemented, wild elephants will not leave the area in search of food and will be saved."
According to the wildlife and nature conservation department of the forest department, 23 elephants have died from 2018 to June this year. On the other hand, according to the IUCN, six elephants have died in Chattogram region in the last six months.
Additionally, from 2010 to 2019, 11 elephants died in areas under Cox's Bazar's north forest department and six elephants died in areas under Cox's Bazar's south forest department.
According to the latest survey released by the organisation, 90 elephants died, across the country, between 1992 and 2016.
The survey recorded that 268 elephants lived in the area during those years.
According to sources concerned, the elephants have died in various parts of the Chakaria-Lama border reserve forest in the northern and southern forest divisions of Cox's Bazar and the Lama forest division in the adjoining Bandarban.
Lastly, on June 13 this year, an elephant was killed and secretly buried in Bailchari in Banshkhali, Chattogram.
Rakibul Amin, the country representative of the IUCN, said elephants are the most endangered species. "Usually, five to six elephants die every year but in the last six months, about six elephants have died – which is very worrying. We have to undertake development projects around elephants, taking care of how to protect this endangered animal," he added.
"So, some long-term thinking should be done about the elephant habitat and those who live around the forest. We also need to plan how to get the elephants – currently trapped in different places – to the forest through advanced technology," he continued.
People concerned said six corridors will be blocked due to construction of the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar railway line. Three corridors of the Cox's Bazar south forest department have already been closed due to government development projects and Rohingya refugee settlements. Endangered Asian elephants are regularly attacking locals due to the corridor being blocked and the food crisis. As a result, the conflict between humans and elephants is increasing.
In this regard, Abu Naser Mohammad Yasin Newaz, divisional officer, Chittagong Wildlife and Nature Conservation Department, said under the Sufal project, the Chittagong Nature and Wildlife Department is also afforesting the Chunti and Jaldi ranges.
Many elephants have died in Chattogram in the last two-and-a-half years and most of them have been killed by electric shock or by trapping. Strict action needs to be taken against those who are hunting various wild animals including elephants. For this, the forest department, local government and people's representatives have to take on effective roles, he added.