Asian elephants in Bangladesh face increasing risk of extinction
About 28 elephants killed in the last 20 months alone; most perpetrators remain unidentified
The slaughter of Asian elephants in Bangladesh has increased in recent times, making it the greatest existential threat to Asia’s largest living land mammal.
According to a study by the Forestry Department and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 268 Asian elephants live in the country’s forests. Two-thirds of them live in Cox’s Bazar and the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
A total of 90 elephants were killed in Bangladesh between 2001 and 2017. Meanwhile, around 28 elephants were brutally killed in just 20 months, from January 2020 to August 2021. Twenty-three of them were killed alone. ‘at Cox’s Bazar.
“The alarming problem is that the elephant killing rate is high compared to any time in the past. In addition, most of the culprits are still not identified, ”said Raquibul Amin, national representative of IUCN Bangladesh.
The Asian elephant could disappear if the killings continue, he warned.
Survival in danger
The Forestry Department attributes electrocution, aging, sliding and falling hills to most Asian elephant deaths in Bangladesh.
But there are other brutal causes of elephant deaths as well. On November 6 last year, a baby elephant was shot dead in the Khutakhali forest in Chakaria. Ten days later, a 30-year-old elephant was similarly killed in Jowarianala Forest in Ramu.
On August 31, 2021, disbelievers of Ramu upazila electrocuted an Asian elephant and then cut the injured mammal into pieces and attempted to bury it in the mud.
“Such brutality is very alarming for the survival of the Asian elephant. Relevant authorities should take appropriate action against wrongdoers [elephants] being shot also raises security concerns, ”said Raquibul Amin.
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“We always hear that the movement of wild elephants creates anxiety among locals for fear of being attacked by them. Elephants are regularly killed by electrocution and bullets under the pretext of protecting crops. However, after investigating the incidents, we found that most of these cultivated land or private resources were inside forest areas, ”said Divisional Forestry Officer Md Sarwar Alam.
“Elephants generally don’t attack unless they are disturbed by people,” he added.
It was a crime to kill elephants under the pretext of saving crops, the head of the Forestry Department told Dhaka Tribune. “We compensate people if an elephant destroys their home or crops grown on private land,” he added.
Meanwhile, ASM Jahir Uddin Akon, director of the Forestry Department’s Wildlife Crime Control Unit, said his agency will now take tough action against anyone involved in elephant killings. .
“We recently ran a campaign in various parts of the country, including Cox’s Bazar, to raise awareness against the killing of elephants,” he said.
“People will hopefully be aware by now, otherwise they will be punished,” Akon warned.
Elephants bear the costs of development
According to the Forestry Department, the multifaceted growth, especially in Cox’s Bazar, and the destruction of sanctuaries have led to a rapid narrowing of elephant corridors.
Read also – Baby elephant found dead in Cox’s Bazar
The biggest threat to the Asian elephant is habitat loss and fragmentation, as economic growth has led to encroachment on the places where they live.
In 2019, an IUCN study identified several risks regarding the movement of Asian elephants in Bangladesh. He said the corridor used by elephants to travel through Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong and the CHT was busy most of the time due to various development projects, including those for roads and railways.
The Forestry Department says such development endeavors have led to an average of 70% of elephants found outside protected areas.
The accommodation of more than one million Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar is also another major cause of disruption of movement in the corridors as well as food shortages.
“We need to make detailed plans for the development work while keeping elephants in mind as they need large spaces to survive. But in many cases we have noticed that the planners considered it initially, but did not follow through during the implementation, ”said Raquibul Amin of IUCN.