July 29, is celebrated worldwide as global tiger day. Bangladesh, being one of 13 tiger range countries also observed the occasion. Sundarbans Tiger Project (STP) of Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh (WTB) has been working to conserve the tigers of Sundarbans since 2004. This year, WTB has arranged four rallies in Khulna, Satkhira, Chandpai and Sharankhola, the four ranges of the Sundarbans. These colourful processions were followed by evening iftar parties, where various stakeholders of the Sundarbans got together and discussed the importance of conservation in our lives.
The changing global scenario, increasing population, expanding technology has continued to put our natural systems at risk. Our wildernesses and wild animals have been pushed further and further away as their habitats and territories have shrunk. Even a few decades ago, the tiger was considered as a majestic and dangerous alpha predator, and like most of our natural assets perhaps people thought their number was limitless. In the past few years, however, gradually we have come to realize how dire the situation of our tigers really is. Even a hundred years ago, there were tigers in many different parts of the country, even near the capital. A century has reduced that abundance to an estimated 300-500 tigers, all confined in the Mangroves of the Sundarbans.
Similar situations have been observed in many other countries. In Vietnam, tiger numbers have decreased 50% in just over a decade. Although the complex nature of the mangrove ecosystem makes it extremely difficult to count the actual numbers of Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans, but increased reports of poaching and visible habitat destruction suggests that our tigers are also facing precarious times. Two months ago three cubs were rescued from the capital city, captured from the Sundarbans with probable plans to traffic them abroad. It can be assumed that many other similar incidents go unreported. Although their lives were saved, the incident meant that there were three less tigers in the wild.
Professor Md. Anwarul Islam, CEO of WTB said, “With tiger population declining around the world, the international demand for tiger parts is on the upsurge. A global partnership for conservation is needed to raise a voice on behalf of the tigers. Also, unless the communities are involved directly in the protection process, and without promoting the value of tigers in front of them, safety of our Bengal tigers cannot be ensured”.