The recent recovery of three Royal Bengal Tiger cubs by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from the residence of a wildlife smuggler in the city’s Shyamoli area was a sensational event for millions of animal lovers at home and abroad. The two-month old cubs were captured in the Sundarbans by animal traffickers in connivance with a section of forest officials. A preliminary investigation revealed that the cubs were kept ready for smuggling out of the country. Timely intervention by RAB saved the young tigers. It was also known that the smuggler’s family was connected with a strong global ring of wildlife traffickers. Executive magistrate of RAB AHM Anwar Pasha sentenced two members of the smuggler’s family, Zakir and his mother Jahanara Begum to suffer two years’ jail term as they confessed to their involvement in the crime. But Jahanara’s husband, the prime accused, Abdul Kader and his elder son Masud managed to escape. This is for the first time that the tiger cubs were recovered in Dhaka city. According to
press reports, RAB came to know that the arrested persons were negotiating with a party for selling each cub at taka 2.0 million.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) conducted a survey in 2004 and found that the tiger population in the Sundarbans is 450. This includes 21 cubs. Though the forest department is running a World Bank-aided regional project to check illegal wildlife trading and another scheme to protect tigers from human interference in the Sundarbans, a large gang of local people is reportedly engaged in smuggling out tigers and cubs to an international racket. A section of forest officials is allegedly helping the gang of wildlife smugglers. Forest department sources have told the media that the tiger smugglers abroad have been using a section of local people who are permitted by the authorities concerned to enter the forest for fishing, wood cutting, collecting honey and Golpata. The smugglers hunted a good number of tigers, deer and other animals over the years.
Systematic destruction of forest poses a serious threat to tiger habitation. The forest area has shrunk considerably resulting in shortage of space for tigers. Nearly half a million people earn their livelihood out of the natural resources, now available in the Sundarbans. The forest department estimates that since independence of Bangladesh, 151 tigers were killed. Law enforcers are trying to unearth organised gangs of poachers having links with international smuggling racket. Among the wild animals, tigers have great demand all over the world. About two years ago the government took initiative to approve a protocol between Bangladesh and India to protect tigers in the Sundarbans.
As we told earlier in this column, the forest was badly affected in cyclone Sidr and Aila in 2007 and 2009. The number of tigers in the Sundarbans are fast decreasing as poachers in connivance with a section of unscrupulous forest department officials continue to kill those. Shortage of sweet water and food after cyclonic storms Sidr and Aila battered the Sundarbans has also gravely affected the wildlife. Forest department sources, however, say 440 tigers including 221 adults now inhabit the Sundarbans. The number of Royal Bengal Tigers is decreasing gradually in the absence of a comprehensive plan to protect them. About 15 tiger skins were recovered from November 20 of 2001 to February 16 last year from different parts of the Sundarbans. Recovery of four skulls, three skins and 31 kilogram of bones of tigers from one Jamal Fakir at Banglabazar under Sarankhola upazila of Bagerhat district last year led to intensified vigilance by forest officials to protect the tigers. Poacher Jamal Fakir in a confessional statement in the court later admitted that he had killed Royal Bengal Tigers by poisoning. Jamal Fakir was arrested under section 26(1) of the forest act.