Bangladesh, once a primary source of illegal tiger parts, has transformed alarmingly into a major consumer and transit hub in the global tiger trade.
This transformation threatens the existence of tigers, particularly the endangered Bengal tiger, and highlights a critical issue in wildlife conservation.
Bangladesh’s Growing Role in Tiger Trade
Recent studies reveal a startling shift in Bangladesh’s role in tiger poaching and trafficking. Historically a source country, it now serves as both a consumer and a transit hub for this illicit trade, reports Mongabay.
This shift is driven by the demands of a growing elite class and facilitated by improved transportation infrastructure, allowing a two-way flow of tiger parts through various ports and crossings.
Critical Habitat Under Threat
The Sundarbans mangrove forest, shared with India, is a significant habitat for the Bengal tiger. Despite efforts to curb poaching in the area, such as the successful antipiracy campaign in 2017, the region remains vulnerable to poaching, Panthera reports. This illegal activity is driven by both domestic demand and international trade, with tigers being poached in neighboring countries like India and Myanmar to satisfy the Bangladeshi market.
The Complexity of the Illegal Tiger Trade
A comprehensive study published in Conservation Science and Practice shows that Bangladesh supplies tiger parts to 15 countries, highlighting the complexity of this illegal trade. The study emphasizes the need for a problem-oriented approach to effectively counter this trade, identifying specific players, trade routes, and issues to target.
The challenge is heightened by the involvement of various criminal elements, including pirate groups and specialized poaching syndicates, reports France 24.
Conservation Efforts and Challenges
Conservation efforts face significant challenges in Bangladesh. The Wildlife Crime Control Unit (WCCU) under the Forest Department lacks direct government funding and struggles with administrative and technological capabilities. As Mongabay reports, there is a critical need for regional and international collaboration, as well as enhanced participation in international forums.
The Role of the Elite Class and Cultural Factors
The rise in domestic consumption of tiger parts among affluent individuals in Bangladesh has been a major contributing factor to the shift in the country’s role in the tiger trade. The Conservation Science and Practice study indicates that demand is driven by cultural and religious beliefs, as well as the status symbol associated with tiger parts.
This demand not only fuels local poaching but also attracts international criminal gangs, Phys.org.
Bangladesh’s transformation from a source to a consumer in the illegal tiger trade poses a grave threat to tiger conservation. This situation calls for concerted action from the government, international organizations, and local communities to dismantle the complex web of wildlife crime. Only through collective efforts can we hope to protect the Bengal tiger from disappearing forever from the country.
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