Human encroachment endangering Asian elephants in Bangladesh



Date Published
DHAKA, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) — The destruction of elephant habitat and food resources by humans, expansion of agriculture and human settlements, unplanned government and private establishments and the destruction of corridors, have made the once abundant Asian elephant a critically endangered species in Bangladesh, experts said.
According to data from the Forest Department, in the last decade, at least five elephants were killed on an average every year in Bangladesh as a total of 62 elephants and 226 people have been killed in human-elephant conflicts since 2003.
The Forest Department data also showed that the highest number of 33 humans were killed by elephants in 2010 while the highest number of seven elephants were killed by humans in both 2009 and 2014.
According to a 2004 survey conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the number of resident elephants in Bangladesh was ranged between 196 to 227.
At that time, 83 to 100 migratory elephants occasionally roamed into Bangladesh from India. These migratory elephants were also found in the forests of Sylhet, Khagrachari, Sherpur, Jamalpur and Netrokona districts.
A decade has passed since that survey was conducted, and now environmentalists suspect that the number has fallen significantly during this period although there is no data on the exact number of elephants in Bangladesh.
Mohammad Yunus Ali, Chief Conservator of the Forest Department, said, “Policymakers and people concerned will have to be aware of the issue. It requires policy-level decisions regarding whether establishments will continue to create the obstructions. If such situations continue, the number of elephants will drop to zero,” he said.
In 2004, there were 11 elephant corridors in Bangladesh, including nine in the greater Chittagong region. But most of these routes have been altered due to human intervention in the form of establishments and roads, said experts, adding that there are 12 such routes and most of them have been put at severe risk by the expansion of human construction and this had resulted in the escalation of human-elephants conflicts.
According to another IUCN survey conducted in 2006, there were 35,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants in 13 countries. Of them, 66.4 percent were found in the Indian subcontinent.
IUCN Programme Officer Mohammad Abdul Motaleb said, “The establishment of brick fields, development projects, houses and roads, are creating obstruction in the elephant corridors.”
Forest Conservator Tapan Kumar Dey said the government has undertaken a 10-year national action plan for elephant conservation.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government has announced seven sanctuaries in the country and one national park, Kaptai national park, to conserve elephants and other wildlife.
The conservation techniques followed in Chunti have been successful in increasing the elephant population since 2003. This success brought the Chunti Co-Management Committee a UNDP award in 2012. This forest permanently has 20 to 25 elephants.
To reduce human-elephants conflict, the IUCN has established 26 Elephant Response team with 300 local people in Chittagong, Sherpur and Jamalpur, where such conflicts are regular.