Home ›› Climate ›› Nature


Encroachment, pollution major threats to tigers

Talukder Farhad
30 Jul 2023 11:21:11 | Update: 30 Jul 2023 11:21:11
Encroachment, pollution major threats to tigers
— Courtesy Photo/Touhid Parvez Biplob

Bangladesh is known around the world for its many sightings, including the Royal Bengal Tiger. In the 30s of the last century, tigers were seen in 11 out of 17 districts in the country. Now this wild animal is found only in Sundarbans and deep forest area of Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Tigers were last seen in Chittagong Hill Tracts in 2021, but the number was insignificant. The Sundarbans, recognized as a world heritage site, is the main habitat of tigers. According to the findings of the tiger survey conducted using camera trapping method in 2015 and 2018, the number of tigers in the forest was 106 and 114 respectively.

As per Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan (BTAP) 2018-2027, the government wants to double the number of tigers in the Sundarbans. The current density is 2.17 tigers per 100 sq km of the forest.

However, zoologists and environmental activists are worried over industrialisation in the Sundarbans area, saying that it poses a threat to tigers and other wild animals.

General Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) Sharif Jamil said, “If we want to increase the number of tigers, tiger habitat must be maintained and improved. But the mangrove forest is threatened by industrialisation.”

He told The Business Post that there is a need for development in the southern region, but it should be done by protecting the Sundarbans. Otherwise, the number of tigers cannot be increased as per the BTAP, he added.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its 2017 report mentioned that the Sundarbans is not in good situation. A 10-km area around the Sundarbans is an Ecologically Critical Area (ECA) and setting up of industries there is prohibited, it said.

But the National Committee on Environmental Protection has approved establishment of 320 factories in the area. One of them is Rampal Coal Based Power Plant.

When the work will be completed, human settlements near the Sundarbans will increase, zoologists say, expressing fears that it will pose threat to the biodiversity of the entire forest.

Professor M Monirul H Khan, Chairman, Department of Zoology, Jahangirnagar University, said that pollution is not visible in the Sundarbans area due to low tide. “But pollution will gradually increase and the biodiversity and tiger population will be affected naturally.”

He further said that the tiger survey was half done during the last winter. The rest will be completed this winter season. After that the actual number of tigers will be known.

It is possible to increase the tiger population if poaching is completely stopped, he opined.

World Tiger Day is observed on July 29 every year to save tigers from endangered status. Bangladesh’s Forest Department will also observe the day through various programs this year.

Tiger Action Plan

According to Tiger Action Plan, tigers were spotted in 2016 at Sangu-Matamuhuri in Bandarban district. On the other hand, a tiger was seen at Kassalong-Sajek in Rangamati district in 2009.

Wildlife expert Monirul H. Khan said that tigers were last seen in Kassalong in 2021. These tigers live inside the territory of Bangladesh and did not come from neighbouring countries, he added.

Tiger Action Plan mentioned that tigers were once found everywhere in Bangladesh and even up to the 1930s they were reportedly present in 11 out of 17 districts.

But widespread hunting and forest depletion have reduced the tiger habitat and its numbers. Now the largest remaining population of tigers is in the Sundarbans.

According to the Forest Department in between 2001 and July 2020, altogether 38 tigers died, 22 in east division and 16 in west division of the Sundarbans.

“In such a situation, it is important for us to save tigers because they live at the top of the ecosystem in a region. If the number of tigers decreases, the biodiversity of the region will be destroyed.”

Monirul H. Khan said tigers are needed for food chain, tourism attraction and natural protection of forests. Due to the presence of tigers, the illegal encroachment of people in the Sundarbans is naturally controlled.

Tiger-human conflict decreases

A project titled ‘Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity’ was taken by Forest Department at cost of Tk 112.36 crore and the project tenure was from 2014 to 2018.

The objective of the project was to improve the biodiversity of Surdarbans by protecting wildlife, especially the Royal Bengal Tiger.

An impact assessment report of Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) on the project said that the number of people killed and injured by tiger attacks in the Sundarbans area is decreasing as a result of government and private initiatives under the project.

According to the Tiger Action Plan, in 2009 the number of people killed by tigers was 42, but in 2015 it was reduced to zero. On the other hand, in 2011, where the maximum number of injured people was 19, in 2015 it came down to two.

According to the IMED report, as per the rules for compensation of people killed or injured in attacks by tigers, elephants and crocodiles, compensation of about Tk 5.1 crore was paid to 1,287 affected people between FY2011 and FY2022.