Our responsibilities to save tiger
Bangladesh is at seventh place in number of tigers. There are 114 tigers in Bangladesh. Currently there are 3890 tigers in the world, among them the largest number of tigers are in our neighbouring country India, which is 2226. In addition, there are 235 tigers in Nepal, 103 in Bhutan, 189 in Thailand, 250-340 in Malaysia, 540 in Russia, 50 in China, 17 in Laos and 5 in Vietnam. In the last decade, the number of tigers has increased significantly in India, Nepal, Russia and Bhutan.
According to World Wide Fund (WWF) data, in 2006 the tiger population in India was 1411, which increased to 1706 in 2010 and according to the census of 2014, the number was 2226. On the other hand, in Bhutan, the number of tigers was 75 in 2010, which according to the count of 2014, stood at 103. In Nepal, the number of tigers in this country was 121 in 2009, which has almost doubled in 2018, stood at 235. This increase is indeed a very positive indication.
According to the count of 2005, the number of tigers in Russia was 423, which stood at 540 in 2015. On the other hand, in Bangladesh where the number of tigers was 440 in 2004, it has dropped drastically to 106 in the data of 2015. However, in recent times, the number of tigers has increased to 114 in the year 2018. In this period, tiger numbers have increased only eight, which is not as expected. India's tiger population has increased by more than 30 per cent, whereas our tiger's population increased very little.
Free movement of people in the Sundarbans, tiger-human conflict, decreasing the number of deer and other feed sources and also scientifically genetic reasons are responsible for not being able to increase the number of tigers. As the number of tigers in the Sundarbans is limited, there is no genetic variation in reproduction.
At the same time, because of the small number of tigers in the Sundarbans, the probability of inbreeding between them that means crossing between the tigers of a close relationship is high, thus leading to the release of a type of deleterious gene, which increases the probability of maternal mortality as well as the infant mortality. In addition to the management of human and natural causes, it is important to think seriously about the genetic and related issues and to bring about the genetic variation to this traditional animal which remains in danger of extinction.
Increasing heterogenicity by genetic variation can be expected to increase tiger numbers. But how can we increase heterogeneity of tigers in the Sundarbans?
In this case, the effective method may be 're-introduction'. In this method, under the supervision of experienced experts, the selected tigers from different sources (zoos and safari parks) of Bangladesh are mated and thus increase the number of tigers by reproduction. And after giving training these tigers at first should release in the semi-wild environment, restricting them to the place, and after observing the situation should release to the wild environment.
Thus through this process genetic variation can be achieved. The Re-introduction program have been undertaken in several countries. By exchanging the tigers between all zoos and safari parks in Bangladesh, completing the first step of bringing the genetic variation through breeding, it is possible to gradually increase the number of tigers by releasing it in the wild and achieving the original purpose of genetic variation. It is important to note that genetic variation will help to improve the tiger's immunity and adapt to the environment. Only by bringing genetic diversity, it will not be possible to prevent the extinction of tigers. We also have to take a short and long-term plan to protect the Sundarbans tiger.
We have to-
* Public entry into the Sundarbans must be completely banned.
* If people live in forests, they should be removed from the Sundarbans and rehabilitation elsewhere.
* In the Sundarbans honey, wood, golpata collection and fish hunting must be stopped. Need to take step to make the people self-sustain through the adoption of honey artificialy, livestock and fish farming projects. Apart from this, the biogas must be set up in each family.
* In the middle of the Sundarbans and people residence setting barbed wire fencing, should be kept away from each other. Besides, the entry of tiger to the locals can be reduced by installing solar panels at the center of the locality, adjacent to the Sundarbans.
* CCTVs will be established and covered under constant supervision in those areas of Sundarbans which are more crime-prone and illegal entrance is available.
* To ensure adequate food demand for tigers, the deer and pig farms should be established near Sundarbannear; Pigs and deer must be sent to the tiger of the Sundarbans for tiger feed purpose.
* Natural water reservoirs should be provided to remove the salinity of the Sundarbans and provide safe drinking water for tiger.
* Compensation arrangements should be made for the killed and injured people and livestock in the aggression of tigers.
There is no alternative to save the Sundarbans and tigers, to save the biodiversity and natural disasters of Bengal, especially the southern region. Otherwise, the forest will be desolate, the lowlands will be flooded due to excess tides, the salinity level will increase in the soil. Crop production will decrease and poverty will increase.
Shahadat Hossain is a Deputy curator and Tariqul Islam Anik is a Production Officer, Chittagong Zoo