Bagerhat – Bangladesh Forest Department has introduced community patrolling involving locals to protect forest resources and check wildlife poaching in the Sundarbans, the lone natural habitat of Bengal tigers.
“The Forest Department has gone for its first-ever community patrolling in the Sundarbans involving the locals as the poaching of wildlife, including tigers and deer, has marked an unusual rise in recent times in the mangrove forest,” divisional forest officer (Sundarbans East) M Saidul Islam told reorters.
On March 4, 2016, the Forest Department formed a 35-member ‘Community Patrolling Group’ involving four women. The forest dwellers dependent on the Sundarbans have been included in the group. The community group, divided into five teams, is now patrolling in the Sundarbans East Zone round the clock.
According to official sources, the ‘Community Patrolling Group’, formed under the World Bank-funded Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection Project, is working along with forest officials to check the poaching of wildlife and helps the Forest Department and the law enforcers fight pirates in the Sundarbans.
The community group members, already provided with special uniform, jackets, torchlight, shoes and blow-horns, are currently working with the Forest Department as volunteers, but they will be brought under income-generating activities in the coming days, the forest officials said.
The Sundarbans, a natural habitat also for dolphins, encompasses three coastal districts — Khulna, Bagerhat and Satkhira — covering 6,017 square kilometres. There are around 450 canals and rivers inside the mangrove forest, sheltering crocodiles and dolphins.
Saidul Islam said if the people living nearby the Sundarbans come forward, it will easily be possible to protect the forest resources and check illegal activities and wildlife poaching.
Similar community patrolling will be introduced in Sharankhola range of the Sundarbans East Zone at the end of this month, he added.
Locals say the Bengal tigers are in danger in the Sundarbans, also a Unesco world heritage site with unique ecosystem, as hunters are desperately poaching the wildlife there. Some organised gangs are active in the forest to kill tigers and other animals by trap, poison-trap and firing. They are also involved in smuggling wildlife and forest resources.
Wildlife is currently facing various troubles in the Sundarbans for the unchecked poaching and destruction of forests. According to the Tiger Census 2015, the tiger population declined to only 106 tigers in the Bangladesh part of the Sundarbans in 2015 while it was 440 in 2004.
The preliminary findings of a new crocodile survey also reveals that there are now only 120-130 crocodiles in the rivers and canals of the mangrove forest while the number was about 200 in 2004. – UNB