Bangladesh celebrates World Wildlife Day today keeping one-fourth of the total of its wildlife under the threatened category while rapid destruction of their habitats continues.
The forestry and wildlife experts said that 31 species of wildlife disappeared in the past 100 years in the country and 390 out of 1,610 species of wildlife are on the threatened list.
They said that many mammals, reptiles and birds like the leopard, clouded leopard, Asian elephant, hoolock gibbon, long-tailed macaque, smooth-coated otter, Phayre’s leaf monkey, Asiatic black bear, Malayan sun bear and pink-headed duck are on the critically endangered list and might disappear soon unless their habitats were protected.
Addressing the ground reality, the forestry department has organised a World Wildlife Day celebrations programme at its Agargaon office, Mihir Kumar Doe, conservator of the wildlife and nature conservation circle department, told New Age on Monday.
‘The habitats of the wildlife in the country are under serious threats for a huge pressure of the population, unplanned urbanisation and industrialisation,’ he said.
If we cannot protect their habitats, he said, many other wildlife of the country might disappear gradually like the Javan rhinoceros, wild water buffalo and nilgai, or the blue bull.
The United Nations General Assembly in 2013 proclaimed March 3 as UN World Wildlife Day.
The World Wildlife Day 2020 will be celebrated across the globe to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits of wildlife to people.
Wildlife and forestry experts said that the successive government had taken little measures to ensure protection of the wildlife habitats and safeguarding them from poachers and locals despite being signatory of three UN wildlife protection-related conventions and enacting five laws such as Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012.
A comparative study of the International Union for Conservation of Nature published Updating Species Red List of Bangladesh in 2015 and 2000. It shows that 215 out of 1,155 assessed species or 19 per cent were under threatened category in 2000 which shot up to 390 in 2015 or 24 per cent, Jahangirnagar University zoology professor Manirul Hasan Khan said.
According to his assessment, ‘It happened due to the rapid loss of the natural habitats in the forests and haor areas across the country.’
He blamed lack of implementations of laws, lack of coordination among the government agencies, unregulated urbanisation and industrialisation, pollution caused by factories, felling of trees and filling up of the water bodies as major causes for destruction of the wildlife habitats.
Criticising the government protection projects, Chittagog University forestry professor Mohammed Kamal Hossain said, ‘The projects did not focus much on reviving the fruit-bearing wild trees, which are the main food sources for the endangered species.’
‘Initiation of roadside forestry projects and declaration of sanctuary and protected forests have left very little impact,’ he observed.
‘We found that the situation of some wildlife sanctuary and declared forests in Chittagong is such that they are threatening the existence of some animals, birds and other species,’ he said.
The Roginhya camps in Cox’s Bazar, he said, confined a group of wild elephants in a small territory that might become hazardous for the people living in the camps.
The government’s decision to fence off the Lawachara National Park in Moulvibazar for restricting contacts between the wild spices and the visitors would rather mean confinement for the former.
He said that the government agencies did little in the form of interventions to protect the habitats and biodiversity of the Tanguar Haor, Hakaluki Haor and other huge habitats for diverse species of birds, reptiles and aquatic life.
A study by Khulna University environmental science professor Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, titled ‘Impacts of Industrialisation and Infrastructure Developments on the Flora, Fauna and Ecosystems of the Sunderbans and Surrounding Areas’, reveals that the biodiversity of the biggest mangrove forest, a UNESCO-declared World Heritage site and also the only habitat of the critically extinct Bengal tiger, is under threat due to transportation of raw materials for developing the coal-based power plant and several other industries within 15 kilometres of the forest in Rampal.
He also identified several other manmade and natural causes like increase of salinity in soil and water as other major causes for degradation of biodiversity of the forest.
Chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on environment Saber Hossain Chowdhury said that the committee had already recommended to the government not to take any development project hampering the forests or their biodiversities.
‘Protecting the forests and wildlife is our constitutional obligation. But, we see that many roads, trail tracts, power supply lines and others were developed through the forests,’ he said.
The environment minister Md Shahab Uddin could not be reached for comment.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country