Officials say its size is rapidly dwindling due to years of uncontrolled tree felling and land grabbing by both locals and influential outsiders
Madhupur National Park is the oldest and third-largest natural forest in Bangladesh.
Once a large and dense forest, home to numerous wild animals including tigers and bears, the forest now is now threatened by biodiversity loss and wildlife extinction.
There are no longer any tigers or bears in the forest. These creatures aren't the only ones who have vanished. Wild fruits and herbal trees are also rapidly disappearing, posing a serious food shortage for the few monkeys and birds that remain.
Officials say its size is rapidly dwindling due to years of uncontrolled tree felling and land grabbing by both locals and influential outsiders, who built various structures, including concrete ones, on the forestland.
According to the forest department, the main reason for the decline and extinction of wildlife is the occupation of forest lands by indigenous peoples.
On the other hand, people from local small anthropological groups say that the number of wildlife has decreased due to rampant deforestation over the years in the name of various projects.
Meanwhile, the forest department has taken a number of steps to protect animals, including planting tree saplings. This will enhance the forest cover and alleviate the wildlife's food shortage.
According to sources, cheetahs, elephants, wild buffaloes and peacocks used to roam the forest a few decades ago. At present all these animals are no longer seen. The number of wild animals that exist today is also very low. Wild pigs are also on the verge of extinction. There are currently 20 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles, and about 60-70 species of birds.
Abdul Ahad, ranger of Dokhala Range, said: “Both locals and outsiders have destroyed the forest and occupied vast tracts of it. But, it is our responsibility to conserve wildlife. So, we have planted fruit trees inside the Sal forest to meet the food requirement of the wildlife.”
Meanwhile, Eugene Nokrek, president of Joinshahi Adivasi Unnayan Parishad, said, "Local indigenous communities are not grabbers. Their forefathers started settling in the area long before the Forest Act of 1927 was enacted.
"A good number of people, including 25,000 indigenous people, live in 44 villages inside the Madhupur forest, and the authorities should take into account their interest while making any plans regarding the forestland."
Speaking on the issue, Jahirul Haque, divisional forest officer in Tangail, said of the original 122,876 acres of forestland, 45,565 acres were in Madhupur, 47,220 acres in Sakhipur, 21,855 acres in Ghatail, 7,576 acres in Mirzapur, and 669 acres in Kalihati.
“Of it, 58,206 acres has been declared reserved forest,” he said, citing declarations of forest settlement officers.
“A social afforestation program was done on around 28,000 acres and rubber gardening on 10,000 acres of land.”
“Shaheed Salahuddin Cantonment in Ghatail, Firing Range of Air Force, and Forest Research Institute in Madhupur were established on the remaining 5,000 acres of land,” Jahirul added.
He added, “Support from all quarters concerned are needed to save the forest and also recover the grabbed forestland.”