Security officials in Bangladesh often arrest robbers and miscreants from Sundarbans. In some instances, even extrajudicial killings take place, but in spite of it, poaching of the Bengal tigers has soared.
After the forest officials recovered the body of a Bengal Tiger from Sharankhola range of eastern Sundarbans on Thursday, the number of big cats in Bangladesh’s part of the forest now stands at 113 as per the government data.
But according to a recently published report by TRAFFIC International, Bangladesh has 106 (including the rescued body) and shares 2.7% of the world’s tiger population. In the face of the soaring poaching rate of the big cats of Sundarbans, the future of Bengal tigers looks worrying.
As per the recent TRAFFIC International report, three tigers are being poached each year in Sundarbans since 2014.
And as per male-female ratio, male tigers are the biggest victim of poaching. Whereas the ideal male-female ratio of the tiger population is 1:3, the ratio has come down alarmingly at 1:10 posing threats of extinction to the Bengal tigers.
This is not a mystery why after all these seeming efforts, this mishap continues to rise. The arrests of the field level robbers alone cannot get the Bengal tigers rid of poaching when there so much darkness right under the light.
Interpol recently published a list of mastermind culprits behind tiger poaching. According to these reports, these masterminds do not allow the security officials’ efforts to succeed as they recruit new miscreants when a group gets locked.
These influential miscreants generally are politically powerful people who live in the cities but conduct their acts of crimes from a safer zone. As long as the security forces fail to hold them accountable, these greedy miscreants will not allow the efforts of the state to save the Bengal tigers to succeed.
How and why poaching?
Poaching is often executed through a poisoned deer or boar as a trap. The robbers and miscreants in Sundarbans trap the tigers with poisoned dead animals and sell tiger skin, teeth, bones, skulls, and other parts of tiger body which are of high demand in the black market.
Given that male tigers are more prone to hunt; they get trapped stuffing the poisoned animals. As a result, the male tigers are now posed at a risk of extinction in Sundarbans.
The tiger body parts including skin, teeth, bones, skulls are expensive. There is a lucrative market for the tiger body parts in the South and South East Asia. In some parts of these regions, superstitious people collect tiger skin as deity, and medicinal purposes.
So, the miscreants and their masterminds seek to earn high profit in these markets endangering the Bengal tigers, the most precious symbol of our nation.
How to prevent poaching?
There are strict punishments for tiger poaching in Bangladesh. But it is the failure of proper execution of the law that blunts these harsh punishments. If we want to save our endangered tigers, we have to undertake effective initiatives as following but not limited to:
Firstly, patrolling must be intensified in the forest. Since the existing rate of patrolling is failing to stop the soaring rate of poaching, there is no alternative to intensified patrolling in the Sundarbans.
Secondly, there are no patrolling stations in the forest. Patrolling stations have to be developed along with the intensified patrolling.
Thirdly, along with arresting the field level robbers and the miscreants, the masterminds of these crimes also have to be brought under justice.
And finally, the government can learn from the example of countries such as Russia and Nepal. These countries have been successful to control and prevent the tiger poaching through relentless efforts. To protect the endangered animals, Russia and Nepal have engaged their militaries.
It is not only the tigers; the whole animal lives of Sundarbans are under threats because of these robbers and miscreants. If the government fails to ensure proper security of the forest, Sundarbans will lose a vast of its animal diversity in the near future.
The writer is a Professor at the Department of Zoology, Jahangirnagar University