Call to protect tigers: “Dhaka Declaration” recommends actions

Royal Bengal Tiger in the Sundarbans / SIMCOUNTRY PHOTO

DHAKA: With the call to protect tigers, the Second Global Tiger Stocktaking Conference of Tiger Range Countries and Global Tiger Initiatives partners ended on Sept 16 (Tuesday) in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. The conference adopted a Dhaka Declaration, in which the tiger range countries pledged not to build any infrastructure that might endanger tiger habitats. The nine-point Dhaka declaration also recommended a number of actions to double the tiger population in the world by 2022.

The declaration titled “Dhaka Recommendations on Advancing Implementation of the Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP)” was released at the conclusion of the conference. The proposed measures in the Declaration include conserving tiger habitats, restoring tigers in their former habitats, increasing investment in frontline staff remunerations and other facilities, enhancing collaboration and knowledge sharing, developing new partnerships with business and industries, increasing flow of funds, building awareness and engaging the communities to deal with human-tiger conflict.

The tiger range countries — Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia, Russia, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Lao PDR and Indonesia — agreed to work together to stop poaching and increase monitoring of tigers, their habitats and their preys.

The GTRP is the roadmap endorsed by the 2010 St Petersburg Declaration aimed at making the global tiger population double by 2022. Following St Petersburg meeting on tigers, the first stocktaking conference was held in Thimpu, Bhutan in 2012 while New Delhi, India will host the third one in 2016.

The 13 tiger range countries took the initiative to adopt international efforts to save tigers from extinction and also to double its present population by 2022. Some international bodies such as the World Bank and UNESCO are closely associated with this initiative and have been cooperating with the move.

Just a century ago, tiger population in the world was over 100,000 but the number now stands at only 3,700. The tiger population drastically reduced due to loss of the animals’ habitat and indiscriminate poaching and hunting. The beautiful animal has now become endangered species and if its population continues to decline at present rate, tiger would be an extinct species. Alarmed at such a situation, the tiger range countries have taken the initiative, not only to protect the existing tigers, but also to increase their number. That is why target has been set to double the number of tigers by 2022.

Bangladesh is one of the tiger range countries where Royal Bengal Tigers live in the Sunderbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, located at the south-western coastal region. The Sunderbans, declared as a Natural World Heritage by UNESCO in 1997, covers an area of 6017 square kilometer, protects Bangladesh from natural disasters like cyclones originated from Bay of Bengal. And the Royal Bengal Tigers protects this forest from encroachers.

Unfortunately, number of tigers in the Sunderbans is also declining like other tiger range countries. The government authorities claim there are over 400 Royal Bengal Tigers still exist in the Sunderbans. But the recent surveys conducted by different agencies estimate that the number has declined and little over 200 tigers now remain in the forest. The government, however, has been conducting fresh official survey to ascertain the accurate picture about the big cats.

The main reason for declining of tiger population in Sunderbans is encroachment of forest by people and illegal poaching of tigers. Gangs of poachers are active in Sunderbans who often kill tigers, take away their skin and smuggle out to foreign countries in exchange of big amount of money. Other parts of the tigers’ body such as teeth, nails, bones and even flesh are smuggled out since these have demand in some countries.

The environmentalists and ecologists of Bangladesh have been demanding for long to take appropriate steps and actions to save big cats in the Sunderbans and also the forest. But the authorities did not pay much attention to this matter, while poaching of tigers and encroachment of the forest continued for a long time. Now, when the number of tigers reduced sharply, the authorities, namely the forest department and law enforcing agencies, have awakened and started taking measures against poachers and encroachers. Bangladesh has stringent laws against poaching of wildlife and encroaching forests, but these laws remained ineffective so long. If the existing laws can be given effect properly, the Royal Bengal Tigers can be saved and their number would be increased certainly.

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