Tigers in Peril As Bangladesh Shifts to Top Consumer in Illegal Trade

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 has shifted from a source to a major consumer in the illegal tiger trade.
Photo: Pexels
Bangladesh has shifted from a source to a major consumer in the illegal tiger trade.

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.

A growing elite class in Bangladesh increasingly demands tiger parts, driving illegal trade.
Photo: Pexels
A growing elite class in Bangladesh increasingly demands tiger parts, driving illegal trade.

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.

Despite conservation efforts, tiger poaching in the Sundarbans remains a significant problem.
Photo: Pexels
Despite conservation efforts, tiger poaching in the Sundarbans remains a significant problem.

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.

Illegal tiger trade in Bangladesh is part of a broader $20 billion global wildlife trade.
Photo: Pexels
Illegal tiger trade in Bangladesh is part of a broader $20 billion global wildlife trade.

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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