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Wildlife trafficking continue to rise

  • Published at 12:52 am July 8th, 2019
File photo shows collection of tiger skin

Poached mammals, reptiles, and birds, were rescued in great numbers in the last fiscal year

Among the top illegal businesses worldwide – including arms and drugs trade – wildlife trafficking is growing in Bangladesh among all, in the last three years.

Poached mammals, reptiles, and birds, were rescued in great numbers in the last fiscal year (FY).

In the FY 2018-2019, 76 separate offenses of wildlife trafficking were recorded by Wildlife Crime Control Unit (WCCU) of the Bangladesh Forest Department. In 2016, a total of 85 offenses were recorded, the highest ever.

In these offenses, 57 mammals were rescued in 2018-2019 – the highest of mammal rescue in a year – while 76 reptiles and 2632 birds were also rescued during the period. A total of 13 people were arrested and four cases were filed. In all cases, offenders are punished and fined accordingly, according to the wildlife crime control unit.

In 2017-2018, 44 mammals were rescued, the then highest. In 2016-2017, five mammals were rescued.

In FY 2018, 47 reptiles were rescued while two reptiles were rescued in FY 2017. In FY 2019, 222 more birds rescued than the previous year. In FY 2018, 2410 birds were rescued countrywide.

Experts and stakeholders’ opinion 

Department of Forest WCCU Director Mihir Kumar Doe told Dhaka Tribune: “Wildlife crime in city areas reduced due to our quick response. Kataban, the biggest pet market in Dhaka, has almost become free from domestic bird trade. As for places such as Kishoreganj, Sunamganj, Cholon Beel, and Chittagong Hill Tracts, we cannot claim that illegal trade has been reduced.

“We have no units at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and Benapole land port. So, we have little to help in international wildlife trade cases. But we work in collaboration with customs officials,” he said.

“It is very important to work regularly at ports. To do so, we need manpower. Currently, we have only three inspectors to operate the drives,” Mihir added.

Dr M Monirul H Khan, professor of the zoology department at the Jahangirnagar University said: “It is hard to say whether illegal trade of wildlife has gone up or down by analyzing the number of offenses. 

“In some cases the origin of the species is outside the country, which means a country is being used as a transit route of world trafficking. However, in comparison, Bangladesh is neither a high nor a low trafficking zone. It is average, since international traffickers use the country as a transit point,” he said. 

“All law enforcement agencies can take action according to the law against wildlife trafficking. But the Wildlife Crime Control Unit must spread out in order to reduce trafficking,” Monirul added.

Punishment in law 

According to Wildlife (preservation and security) Act, 2012 for killing an mammal, or collecting, preserving, buying and selling, or transporting its meat, trophy, or any parts, a maximum punishment is set as 12 years imprisonment while minimum as two years. And maximum fine set at Tk15 lakh while minimum at Tk1 lakh in different articles of the law.  

For killing birds, the maximum punishment is two years imprisonment while minimum is six months; maximum fine is set at Tk2 lakh while minimum at Tk30,000.

One may be fined or jailed or both as per different articles.

As common rescues, munia, myna, parrot, shalik (common myna) were rescued along with some migratory birds. Among reptiles, gecko, python, cobra, turtles were found mostly. While among mammals, fox, monkey, squirrel, and mongoose are common. Two leopard cubs were also rescued last year.

The United States has listed Bangladesh among the countries that are a major source, transit point, or consumer of wildlife trafficking products or their derivatives.

The US Congress report listed focus countries and countries of concern which were defined in the “eliminate, neutralize, and disrupt” (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016.

Bangladesh was listed under the focus country along with Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, DR Congo, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, UAE, and Vietnam.