World Wildlife Day 2018
The wildlife scenario in Bangladesh
Published : Thursday, 1 March, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 1447
The UN General Assembly (UNGA), in its 68th session, on 20 December 2013, proclaimed 3 March - the day of signing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - as UN World Wildlife Day. This day was proclaimed to celebrate and raise awareness for the world's wild animals and plants.
The theme for World Wildlife Day 2018 is 'Big Cats'. Using the expanded definition of big cats, the day will raise awareness on the conservation of the lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars as well as cheetahs, snow leopards, pumas, clouded leopards and all other species of Big Cats.
In the context of Bangladesh, the day carries a special significance as there is a plethora of wealth of life forms here including thousands of plants, animals and microorganisms. Bangladesh currently has 2 sites - Sundarban Reserve Forest and Tanguar Haor - designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 6,11,200 hectares. Among other notable biodiversity areas are the forests of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Lawachara Uddyan and Shalban.
According to various sources, Bangladesh has a total of 34 kinds of amphibians, 109 kinds of reptiles, 301 kinds of resident birds, 176 kinds of migratory birds, 143 kinds of rag rant birds, 30 kinds of birds went extirpated, 120 kinds of inland mammals and 3 kinds of marine mammals.
Sundarban is a hotspot of rich flora and fauna. It is home to a number of unique and endangered species of plants, animals like endangered Royal Bengal Tiger, vulnerable Pallas Fishing Eagle and Masked Finfoot, critically endangered River Terrapin, rare species of shark and very rich avifauna with 315 species, of which 84 are migratory. On the other hand, Tanguar Haor provides habitat for at least 135 kinds of fish and 208 kinds of bird, including 92 species of water bird and 98 species of migratory bird.
This is quite extraordinary that such a great diversity of wilderness creatures still exists in an unusually overpopulated country with a very limited range of wildlife habitats. Not surprisingly, the state of biodiversity in Bangladesh has been worsening day by day mainly because of the high population pressure on natural resources.
The stock of forest trees has declined in Bangladesh at an alarming rate. It is estimated that the forest cover has been reduced more than 50 per cent since the 1970s. The overall biodiversity of the country is facing a major crisis due to the decline in forest lands. A survey of forest department said that there are only about 240 permanent elephants living in the forest. Not only are elephants decreasing, but about 219 species of animals are also threatened by extinction due to the destruction of forestlands, illegal trade of wildlife and environmental disasters.
The IUCN Red List, the world's most comprehensive information source on the extinction risk of species, illustrates that a large number of species have recently undergone rapid decline. The Red List of Bangladesh 2015 reports 31 regionally extinct and 390 threatened animal species of wild fauna during the last century.
The government has already taken some effective steps to protect the wildlife. Tangua Haor, Hail Haor, Hakaluki Haor, Nijhum Island and Sonadia Island have been declared as 'Flyaway Sites'. In these areas, forest department-NGO-Universities have jointly endeavoured activities under the project 'Strengthening Co-operation for Wildlife Protection' funded by the World Bank. Government has banned the production of vaccine drug 'Diclofenac'.
The 'Bangabandhu Award for Wildlife Conservation' has been announced to encourage bird lovers protecting the threatened, vulnerable, endangered species of birds. Wildlife (conservation and security) Act, 2012 has been passed to provide for the conservation and safety of biodiversity, forest and wildlife of the country by repealing the existing law relating to conservation and management of wildlife.
Schedule I & II of the Act includes some 650 species of birds as 'Protected Bird'. To serve the rescued and wounded birds, 'Wildlife Rescue Centre' has been set up in 4 areas across the country. Bird-rich areas have declared as 'Ecological Critical Area' by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. In addition to that, Wildlife Conservation Act 2012 also states that if any person kills any tiger or elephant, cheetah, lam cheetah, hoolock, sambar deer, crocodile, gharial, whale or dolphin, s/he will be punished with imprisonment for a term of two years to seven years and also with a fine of Taka one hundred thousand to ten hundred thousand only.
If these laws are correctly implemented, many endangered wildlife can be protected. In that case, the law should not only be passed but also applied properly. The unscrupulous people involved in killing, collecting, acquiring, purchasing, selling, transporting and trafficking wildlife should be brought to justice.
Besides this, no development project should be planned or executed that can affect the forest land or natural habitats of wildlife as most of the wild animals largely depend upon the growth, extent and distribution of forests. Members of the law enforcing agencies, environmentalists and concerned citizens should be constantly vigilant about it in preventing the extinction of wildlife and wilderness.