Tiger Conservation Conference in Dhaka

At the second Global Tiger Stocktaking Conference held in Dhaka on 14-16 September 2014, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina called on all present to join hands to save tigers in the wild, noting that wild tigers have occupied a special place in Asia’s nature and culture for centuries and are a symbol of strength and courage. The conference was attended by representatives of thirteen Tiger Range Countries (TRC) that are members of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and the Global Tiger Iniative (GTI). TRC countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

In her speech the Bangladeshi Prime Minister pointed out how human population growth, industrialization, forest destruction and illegal poaching have made the tiger an endangered species, going on to express her hope that the tiger range countries would keep up their efforts to protect tigers. The first Global Tiger Summit took place in 2010 in the Russian city of St Petersburg, where it was decided that the TRCs would work together to conserve tiger populations through the Global Tiger Recovery Program.

Although Bengal tigers were found in seventeen districts of Bangladesh around a century ago, they are now found only in the Sundarbans, a conservation area shared with neighboring India. A new report released at the conference revealed that, among the 13 tiger range countries, Bangladesh is lagging behind in reaching its tiger conservation targets and had no recent data regarding the number of wild tigers in the Sundarbans. It is thought that tiger populations have remained stable in the past four years since the conference in St Petersburg, but a lack of accurate numbers is troubling to conservationists, particularly as a goal had been set to double the worldwide population by 2022. A population count is set to take place over the next two years using hi-tech monitoring systems.

In addition to the ongoing problem of poaching tigers for their body parts which are believed by some Asian communities to have medicinal properties, habitat destruction is a serious threat to the welfare of tigers worldwide. In Bangladesh, conservationists have voiced concern over the huge power plant being constructed just 14 kilometers from the Sundarbans, citing potential pollution of the mangrove forest waters which may, in turn, jeopardize the area’s biodiversity, breaking tiger populations into smaller groups which would impact negatively on breeding patterns.