Experts: Asian elephants on the verge of extinction

Habitat destruction, moving route closure, and deforestation are the major reasons

Wild Asian elephants living in the forests in Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong Hill Tracts are on the verge of extinction, experts have said.

Habitat destruction, corridor or moving route closure, and deforestation for development projects are the main reason behind the endangerment of the largest living mammal, they said.

The experts voiced their concerns at a seminar organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the occasion of World Elephant Day 2022 on Thursday.

The seminar highlighted the key issues of endangered species conservation and reducing human-elephant conflict in the areas.

Experts said IUCN conducted several surveys on the elephant population, movement routes, and corridors with the help of the Bangladesh Forest Department.

 Dhaka Tribune

According to the latest elephant population survey conducted in 2016, the species, which was once widespread in Bangladesh, is now only found in the southeastern region of Bangladesh — the Chittagong Hill Tracts and Cox's Bazar.

They also noted that since the Rohingya community started living in Cox’s Bazar, authorities had to make places for them by cutting trees. Hence, destroying and limiting elephants’ living places and movement routes.

Also, they mentioned that from 2017 to 2018, elephants killed at least 12 Rohingya as a result of the limited moving routes available to them.

Later, to mitigate human-elephant conflict, IUCN and UNHCR undertook a project that resulted in zero deaths even though 375 incidents were reported.

On top of that Elephant Response Team (ERT) has handled more than 211 human-elephant conflicts since September 2021.

Additional Commissioner of Refugees, Relief and Repatriation Office (RRRC) Md Samsudouza Nayan presided over the seminar as the chief guest, while Divisional Officer of Cox's Bazar South Forest Division Md Sarwar Alam attended as the special guest.

The killing of Asian elephants in Bangladesh has seen an increase in recent years as well.

According to a study by the Forest Department and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are 268 Asian elephants living in the country’s forests. Two-thirds of them live in Cox's Bazar and the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

A total of 90 elephants were killed in Bangladesh between 2001 and 2017. 

Meanwhile, around 28 elephants were brutally killed in just 20 months from January 2020 to August 2021. 

Twenty-three of them were killed in Cox’s Bazar alone.