Bird poachers’ network across the country became active with the advent of hunting season, said worried ornithologists and wildlife crime controllers.
They told New Age that bird hunting season in Bangladesh spans six post monsoon and pre-monsoon months keeping winter in the middle.
Due to manpower and funding shortage, they said, the Wildlife Crime Control Unit of the Department of Forest cannot carry out drives against bird poachers.
WCCU officials said they seized around one thousand birds that were illegally trapped for sale as pets or for meat from early September.
On October 6, a forest department team led by wildlife management and nature conservation division inspector Nigar Sultana seized 12 parakeets, eight swamphens and a hill myna during a raid at Mirpur.
On September 29, another WCCU team while raiding Savar arrested illegal bird trader Lal Mia with 611 birds including alexandrian and rose ringed parakeets, hill mynas, munias and sparrows.
Poachers and amateur hunters get active from September to March, said DoF’s Wildlife Centre’s ornithologist Shibli Sadi.
Migratory birds arrive in Bangladesh in flocks during this period known for planting and harvesting of crops, he said.
Wet lands and char areas in Bogra, Natore, Pabna, Rajshahi, Jamalpur, Sherpur, Sunamganj and the three hill-tract districts are among the favoured bird poaching spots, he said.
He said that poachers bring trapped birds for sale in the capital by train.
WCCU data shows that 40 local species including the threatened blossom-headed parakeet, kalij pheasant, hill myna and the Indian spotted eagle, are common birds of prey.
Independent ornithologists said that professional and amateur hunters poach wetland ducks, shorebirds as well as a wide variety of migratory birds for their meat.
Conservation biologist and an assistant coordinator of BirdLife International Sayam U Chowdhury said that fulvous whistling, lesser whistling, bar-headed goose, common and ruddy shelduck, herons, egrets and other birds were preyed for meat.
The Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act 2012 made trapping or hunting most of these birds as a punishable offence.
Sayam said that hunters often trap shorebirds, kentish plover, lesser sand plover, grey-headed lapwing, common greenshank and even the threatened yellow-wattled lapwing and little ringed plover.
Wildlife inspector Ashim Kumar Mallick, who led the raid at Savar on September 29, said that checking wildlife crimes became challenging for the WCCU due to its acute manpower shortage.
He said that the WCCU depends on local informers for the success of anti-poaching drives.
The lure of easy cash inspires poachers to repeat their crimes even after suffering punishments, he said.
He said, Lal Mia was sentenced to one year’s jail twice for the same offence.
During the raid at Savar on September 29, he was jailed for a year for the second time, he said.
The Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act 2012 made poaching and slaughtering any of the 578 local birds included in the red list a punishable offence.
The law stipulates one year’s jail or a fine of Tk one lakh or both for the offence.
Repeating the offence carries double the punishment.
WCCU records show that 14,936 birds were seized from illegal pet sellers across the country from June 2012 to September 2016.
In the capital alone, WCCU seized over 4,000 birds during 80 drives when it detected 14 offenders, eight of whom were fined or jailed.
The country’s 15 wildlife inspectors find curbing the illegal wildlife trade across the country challenging.
DoF sources said that the WCCU officials only rescue and release birds and animals in the wild but usually avoid filing cases for which they neither get proper legal support nor the allowances for appearing in courts to testify.
Forest official Abu Naser Mohsin Hossain said that the WCCU inspectors were now assigned to coordinate with district level mobile courts for speedy enforcement of anti-poaching laws.
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