The Forest Department of Bangladesh will install nylon fence at critical locations in the Sundarbans and provide awareness training, aiming to resolve tiger-human conflicts, and increase the tiger population in the world’s largest mangrove forest.
These initiatives are part of a special project of the Forest Department named 'Sundarbans Tiger Conservation Project'.The implementation of the project, with a budget of Tk 35.90 crores, began in April 2022 scheduled for completion in March 202, according to the project director’s office.
Under this project, various activities were planned including a survey of the tigers and prey animals in the Sundarbans, the construction of high dunes and watchtowers, research on canine distemper virus in tigers, and awareness training for VTRT and CPG members, it said.
To prevent tigers from entering nearby localities from the Sundarbans, nylon fence will be erected in 4 to 5 km critical locations initially. If this proves successful, 60 km area will be brought under fencing.
The Forest Department expressed hopes that the successful implementation of this project will resolve tiger-human conflicts, reduce human-induced tiger killings, and increase the tiger population.
The primary focus of the project is the survey of tigers and prey animals. So far, camera trapping surveys have been completed for tigers, prey animals, and canals in the Khulna and Satkhira ranges under Sundarbans West Forest Division.
The survey in the Sharankhola and Chandpai ranges under East Forest Division is set to commence in November, with the report expected to be published in July 2024.
Abu Nasser Mohsin Hossain, Divisional Forest Officer of Sundarbans West Forest Division and Project Director of the Sundarban Tiger Conservation Project, said camera trapping work for the tiger survey in Satkhira and Khulna ranges has been successfully completed.
All officers and employees of the Sundarbans East and West Forest Divisions will undergo training to enhance their tiger conservation skills.
“Training sessions for CPG and VTRT members will start soon. Additionally, several activities are planned for tiger conservation and increasing their numbers,” he said.
“All project activities will be documented on video, and these recordings will be used to create documentary films. These films will later prove valuable to officials and volunteers dedicated to Sundarbans and tiger conservation,” he added.
According to the project plan, 12 high dunes will be constructed inside the Sundarbans to offer shelter to tigers during floods, storms, and high tides. A tower will also be installed in the Dhansagar area of the Sarankhola range tiger sanctuary to monitor fires. From this tower, forest guards and volunteers will be able to swiftly manage fires in the Sundarbans in that region.
As part of the project, research will be conducted on the canine distemper virus. Tiger feces will be collected from the Sundarbans, and domestic researchers will study the virus infection in the tigers' teeth through these fecal samples.
On the other hand, 340 members of the Village Tiger Response Team (VTRT) and 184 members of the Community Patrol Group (CPG) will receive training to resolve human-tiger conflicts in the Sundarbans.
Additionally, two tigers that often enter the locality will be fitted with satellite trackers. Forest officers will provide apps to CPG and VTRT members for tracking tigers' movements, allowing them to monitor tiger activity on their mobile phones. Consequently, if a tiger approaches the locality, they will be able to quickly guide it back to the Sundarbans.
Furthermore, for the project's implementation, various equipment such as drone cameras, satellite trackers, nylon fences, GPS devices, tranquilizing agents for tiger sedation, cameras, VTRT equipment, and various auxiliary materials, including clothing and training materials for CPG members, will be procured.