Bangladesh creates wildlife anti-poaching police force

Dhaka, June 07,2011 –

TheGovt. of BD on June 02, signed a US$ 36 million credit agreement with the WorldBank for the project “Strengthening Regional Cooperation for WildlifeProtection in Asia”(SRCWPA). The regional project will addresscross-border illegal wildlife trade through regional cooperation and capacitybuilding, and support the country’s initiative for habitat protection andmanagement for wildlife in general and tigers in particular. South Asia ishome to 13-15% of the world’s biodiversity as well as some to the mostendangered species on Earth. Habitats across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India andNepal are home to over 65% of the 3,000 or so remaining wild tigers. The richbiodiversity of South East Asia has also made it a lucrative target of illegalwildlife trade. It has beenrealized that no single country is able to manage the threats of poaching andillegal wildlife trade by its own. As wildlife are poached in one country,stockpiled in another, and then traded beyond the South-Asian region. So, themain challenges include – 1. Inadequate coordination mechanism; 2. Lack of communication, and 3. Weakadministrative arrangements for interaction across borders. The World Bank,supporting a regional project, has unveiled the information mentioned, througha recent statement. The Washington-based lender said that the BD Govt. hasjoined the present phase of the project named, “Strengthening RegionalCooperation in Wildlife Protection in Asia (SRCWPA)” to conserve wildlifeand tackle illegal wildlife trade. Nepal and Bhutan have also joined the projectand it is expected that India may be joining soon, it stated. The IndianMinistry of Environment and Forests has shown willingness to join the regionalinitiative and had participated in a regional consultation meeting. Dr. MashiurRahman, Economic Affair Advisor to the Prime Minister has said, “Thisproject will be the entry point to regional cooperation for wildlife protectionand conservation. Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan are joining the project at thisstage. Participation by other tiger range countries in South Asia and SouthEast Asia is envisaged in later phase.” Mr. M. Musharraf  Hossain Bhuiyan, Secretary, Economic Relationshas said, “The charismatic appeal of many species can generate additionaleconomic benefits from conservation”. According toWorld Bank, the project is expected to bring about regional collaboration incombating wildlife crime through strengthened legislative and regulatoryframeworks, well equipped specialized agencies, as well as relevant trainingand awareness programs for staffs across the range of agencies that contributeto the enforcement of wildlife laws and regulations. The project will also fillcrucial knowledge gaps in addressing the regional threats to conservation, bycreating a network including scientists and practitioners in wildlifeconservation in South Asia. Ellen Goldstein,World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh has said, “It is clear that nosingle country, acting alone, can eliminate the peril to South Asia’s wildliferesources. Adopting and implementing a regional approach will be the mostappropriate solution to ensure the effectiveness of interventionsaddressing  illegal wildlife trade,habitat management and conservation of species.” This will expandthe scope and quality of research in wildlife conservation needed to develop acommon response against illegal wildlife trade and address other regionalconservation issues, said the World Bank. It said, BD Forest Dept. is implementinga $36 million US Dollar program focusing on Bangladesh as a part of theregional project. In addition to strengthening the capacity of Wildlife Circle,the bank said that the project will also establish a Wildlife Center toundertake training, research, education, and awareness on the issues of wildlifeconservation and protection. The BD Forest Dept. is set to launch a new policeforce to protect wildlife in response to the sharp rise in poaching and exoticanimal smuggling. The Conservatorof Forest, Dr. Tapan Kumar told AFP, that the 300 member Wildlife Crime ControlUnit (WCCU) will be deployed in July 2011, as a part of a $36 million WorldBank funded project aimed at protecting native endangered species. Most of theunit will be stationed at Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest andhome to the critically endangered Royal Bengal Tiger; the force will beequipped with modern weaponry and 38 patrol boats, he said. The World Bankwould provide Tk.250 Crore to Bangladesh out of total project cost of Tk.271Crore, as a grant for financing the strengthening of regional cooperation forwildlife conservation project. There will be exchange of knowledge and skillsamong the regional countries under the project on wildlife conservation andmanagement, creating opportunities for institutional management related towildlife conservation, checking illegal trade and trafficking as well asprotecting their habitat through a coordinated effort. Forest Dept.officials are concerned that the wildlife smuggling is increasing, and the Thaicustoms authorities announced that they had seized 370 endangered StarTortoises smuggled into the country in unclaimed bags on a flight fromBangladesh, as the leading tags suggested the luggage had come from Dhaka andwere found before going to Japan via Bangkok and returning to the Thai capital,even then they were not collected, according to Freeland Foundation, acounter-trafficking organization of Thailand. Those Indian and Burmese StarTortoises had been in bags for 10 days before they were found in Suvarnabhumiairport. The foundation estimated those worth US$31,000 in the Black market, as4 specimens were found dead by that time. Those tortoises are popular in Asiaas an exotic pet, but is listed under the Convention on International Trade inEndangered Species (CITES) and a permit is required to export them. “Theseconsecutive seizures highlight the continuing high volume illicit wildlifetrade link between South and Southeast Asia. If we can’t stop (smugglers),we’ll lose these species forever,” said Freeland senior program officer,Onkuri Majumdar. It is noteworthy, in September 2010, Thailand – home to someof the world’s  largest wildlifetrafficking operations, seized more than 1000 star tortoises that were smuggledinto the country on a flight from Bangladesh. Bangladesh holdsthe largest remaining population of tigers in the Sundarbans region. However,the country’s ecological balance is being affected by immense populationpressure, over-exploitation of natural resources, deforestation, andindiscriminate poaching of wild animals. Studies indicate that 4-5% of thefaunal species and about 10% of floral diversity have already been extinct overthe last century. According to the forest dept., eitht aminal species havebecome extinct in BD in the recent decades and almost all its native wildlifeis now classed as critically endangered due to poaching and other threats. So,the project will assist the governments of participating countries to build andenhance shared capacity to collaborate in improving the effectiveness ofwildlife and habitat conservation, while promoting ecotourism.

Source: AFP, Google News, June 07, 2011.