The Sundarbans forest is one of the last refuges for the Bengal tiger (Paul Goldstein)

Bangladesh sets up special force to save tigers

15th June 2011

Bangladesh is setting up a special task force to save the endangered Royal Bengal tigers and other animals from the illegal poaching trade

The 300-strong team will be mainly positioned around the Sundarbans forest, which stands between Bangladesh and India, home to around 400 tigers.

Following a recent major incident which saw the biggest haul of illegal tiger parts in decades, the new Wildlife Crime Control unit will also tackle the growing trade in the illegal trafficking of wild animals.

In February, three tiger skins and a large quantity of bones were seized and a poacher was arrested in the Sundarbans forest. Until recently, poaching had not been a chief threat to Bangladesh's tiger population.

Paul Goldstein, tiger expert and regular Wanderlust contributor, said that action is essential, “I am always delighted to read developments like this. In the past, tiger forums attended by all the pertinent countries have done absolutely nothing. Words and tears are easy, action is not.”

He added that tourism is vital to the tiger's survival, “This area needs tourists and it needs management, I hope this first step is successful. You cannot argue with statistics and wherever there are plenty of tourists, tiger numbers are stable.

“When you make tigers valuable to local communities you give them a chance. When you marginalise them, local people feel no ownership to their striped neighbour.”

Poachers are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to target the animals, and officials admit they are finding it difficult to counter them, as they do not have sufficient resources, manpower and training.

Earlier this month, customs officials in Thailand seized luggage on a flight from Bangladesh containing hundreds of freshwater turtles and crocodiles.

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