Int’l Tiger Day: Little progress in fulfilling commitment

Online desk, Outlookbangla.com

Eleven years ago, at a summit in Russia, Tiger Range Countries committed to double the global tiger population by 2022.

Bangladesh was among the 13 Tiger Range Countries — where tigers still roam in the wild — at the tiger summit in 2010, but it has made little or no progress in increasing its tiger population, experts said.

The tiger summit had also decided that the countries would conduct surveys every two years, but Bangladesh has conducted only two since the summit.

The current tiger population in the country is yet to be known as there have been no surveys since 2018. The last survey put the population of tigers in the Sundarbans at 114.

The first survey of the USAID Bagh project in 2015 recorded 106 tigers.

“We cannot say the tiger population has increased. What I can say is that the population has remained stable,” Dr M Monirul H Khan, associate professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University, told The .

There is also uncertainty about the exact number of tigers in the country as the last survey before the 2015 one was conducted in 2010, according to which the tiger population was 400-450.

Scientists and officials said the study methods were different, which is why the numbers were also different.

Monirul said it is tough to say exactly how many tigers are in the Sundarbans but the last estimate, in 2018, was scientific.

Mollah Rezaul Karim, conservator of forest (Wildlife and Nature Conservation Circle) of Department of Forest, said: “The latest survey was scientifically good. We are planning to conduct a survey of the whole Sundarbans to get an absolute number of tigers.

“We couldn’t do surveys every two years due to various reasons, including financial constraints. But we are hopeful of carrying out a survey this winter.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to join the upcoming tiger summit next year and the survey will be completed before that event, he said.

Since the tiger summit in 2010, the Tiger Range Countries have taken various steps to increase their tiger populations.

India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan saw some success as the number of tigers increased in those countries. Tiger surveys in those countries were held in 2018 and 2019.

Experts are reluctant to term the increase of eight tigers between the 2015 and 2018 surveys “an actual increase”.

“Yes, it is true that the number of tigers has not increased in that sense in Bangladesh,” Monirul said.

But it is also good news that the number of tigers has not decreased during the period, he added.

“If we can stop tiger poaching and ensure smart patrolling, the tiger population will increase in the Sundarbans. We can also expand the tiger habitat in the Chattogram Hill Tracts area, and then tiger population will see a rise,” he said, adding that security must be ensured for tigers.

To have regular tiger population surveys, Monirul suggested that the initiative be given regular allocations from the government and not be reliant on a project basis.

International Tiger Day is observed on July 29 every year to raise awareness on the conservation of tigers and to promote the protection of their natural habitats.