Bangladesh dou­bles wildlife sanc­tu­ary to save its tigers

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Dhaka, Bangladesh - Bangladesh has more than dou­bled the size of the wildlife sanc­tu­ary in the world’s largest man­grove forest to try to pro­tect en­dan­gered Ben­gal tigers whose num­bers have fallen sharply, of­fi­cials said on Tues­day.

More than half, or 52 per cent, of the 6,017sqkm Sun­dar­bans - one of the largest habi­tats of the tigers - has been de­clared a sanc­tu­ary this week, said the gov­ern­ment’s chief forest con­ser­va­tor Shafiul Alam.

The Sun­dar­bans, which also strad­dles parts of eastern In­dia, is home to some rare an­i­mals in­clud­ing the Ir­rawaddy dol­phins and the Ben­gal tigers, both de­clared en­dan­gered be­cause of poach­ing and a loss of their habi­tat. Pre­vi­ously the wildlife sanc­tu­ary was lim­ited to 23 per cent of the forest cover, and vil­lagers and tourists had un­re­stricted ac­cess to the rest of the man­grove forest.

A 2015 sur­vey found a dra- matic de­cline in the num­bers of the Ben­gal tiger - 106 tigers, down from 440 dur­ing a 2004 count.

Monirul Khan, a tiger ex­pert and zo­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Ja­hangir­na­gar Univer­sity, said the de­ci­sion would ‘surely help’ in­crease the num­ber of wild cats.

“This is a law. We ap­pre­ci­ate it. If it’s en­forced ef­fec­tively, I’m hope­ful it will help the an­i­mals, es­pe­cially the tigers, to grow in num­bers,” Khan said.

Amir Hos­sain, head of the gov­ern­ment’s Tiger Mon­i­tor­ing Project, said the ex­panded sanc­tu­ary ‘will be a safe roam­ing and breed­ing haven for the tigers’.

“Peo­ple’s move­ment in the ex­tended sanc­tu­ary will be re­stricted,” he said. The nearly 350,000 lo­cals who de­pend on the Sun­dar­bans to col­lect fish, honey and logs will not be al­lowed to en­ter it, he said.

De­spite this ex­pan­sion, the wildlife and the del­i­cate ecosys­tem of the Sun­dar­bans still face an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis from a con­tro­ver­sial power plant at the edge of the forest which Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina’s gov­ern­ment is mov­ing ahead with, ex­perts said.

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