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Join hands to save tigers, save nature: PM

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Staff Reporter
Assuring her government will do everything necessary for conservation of the tigers, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday called upon the tiger range countries to continue their sincere efforts for protecting tigers.
“I want to assure you all that my government will do everything and continue all sorts of cooperation for conservation of the tigers. I also hope that the tiger range countries would keep their continued efforts for protecting tigers. Let us join hands to save the tigers and save the nature,” she said.
The Prime Minister gave the assurance and made the appeal while addressing the inaugural ceremony of the three-day 2nd Global Tiger Stocktaking Conference 2014 held at Sonargaon Hotel in the city.
Bangladesh Forest Department under the Ministry of Environment and Forests has organized the three-day conference in cooperation with Global Tiger Initiative, Global Tiger Forum and the development partners, including the World Bank, aimed at saving the big cat from extinction.
The main objective of the conference is to review the implementation plan under the Global Tiger Recovery Program for the tiger inhabiting countries. The conference will adopt a ‘Dhaka Recommendation’ for the conservation of tigers across the globe.
With Environment and Forests Minister Anwar Hossain Manju in the chair, the function was also addressed by Deputy Minister for Environment and Forests Abdullah Al Islam Jakob, Secretary of the Ministry Md Nojibur Rahman, World Bank Country Director Johannes Zutt, Global Tiger Forum Secretary General Rajesh Gopal, Global Tiger Initiative Program Manager Andrey V. Kushlin and Bangladesh’s Chief Conservator of Forests Md Yunus Ali.
Sheikh Hasina, who received a token of appreciation from the organizers for her role in protecting tigers, urged the global community to protect the Sundarbans as it protects the southern coastal region of Bangladesh from storms and cyclones.
Stressing that the Sundarbans needs to be saved for its colossal storage of biodiversity, besides the precious Royal Bengal Tiger, she said it’s a unique place of natural beauty and biodiversity. The Sundarbans is a natural protector of the southern coastal areas of Bangladesh from cyclone and other calamities originated in the Bay of Bengal.
“We are more than three years into the Global Tiger Recovery Program. I believe we have arrived at a turning point to reach our desired goals of protecting tigers. We have to take steps reviewing our previous activities and renewing our plans, activities and implementation strategies,” she said.
The Prime Minister hoped that in continuation of the previous efforts, this Conference will make a significant stride towards implementation of the Global Tiger Recovery Programme aiming to double the number of wild tigers by the Tiger Range Countries and their partners as directed by the ‘Thimphu Affirmative Nine-Point Action Agenda on Tiger Conservation’.
She said that wild tigers have for centuries occupied a special place in the nature and culture of Asia. Tiger has been declared as the national animal in many countries and it is a symbol of strength and courage.
“Unplanned human population growth, indiscriminate industrialization, destruction of forest and overall development pressure are causing depletion of the habitat of tigers.”
At the same time, Hasina said illegal poaching and squeezing of its habitat make the tiger an endangered species. During the last one century, the population of this majestic animal has been reduced from over 100,000 to a mere 3,700 worldwide now.
"I hope that this conference would play a significant role in increasing tiger population, and conserving and ensuring secured life of this beautiful creature,” she said.
The Prime Minister recalled that the Heads of Government of Tiger Range Countries, being the custodians of the last remaining tigers in the wild, gathered with the common goal of conservation of tigers at an International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia in November 2010.
“We expressed our determination to strive to double the number of wild tigers across their range by 2022 on the basis of the tiger population in 2010. To reach this goal, we also endorsed an implementation mechanism,” she said.
Hasina said that a 9-point Action Agenda was adopted at the Second Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in October 2012 in the Bhutanese capital, Thimpu, where the delegation heads of Tiger Range Countries committed to enhancing collaboration in management of trans-boundary landscapes and corridors, combating illegal trade, and eliminating illicit demand.
An International Workshop on Trans-boundary Conservation of Tigers and other endangered species and strategy for combating illegal wildlife trade was held in Kunming of China in 2013.
She said that the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world covering an area of 6017 square kilometers, in the southwest of Bangladesh is the habitat of the world famous Royal Bengal Tiger.
“The Royal Bengal Tiger is our national animal. It has been playing a pivotal role in protecting the Sundarbans. The existence of the Sundarbans will be at stake without the Royal Bengal Tigers,” the Prime Minister said adding that the tigers protect the Sundarbans while the Sundarbans protect Bangladesh.
Declared as a Natural World Heritage Site in 1997 by UNESCO, she said the Sundarbans faces severe threats of global warming and sea level rise; climate change and cyclones; saline water intrusions and tidal surges. Moreover, encroachment of 1.2 million people and their livelihood off the forest have made tiger-human conflicts common.
Listing a number of government programs for the conservation of the country's national animal. Hasina said it has been implementing National Tiger Recovery Program and Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan (2009-2017).
She said the government has also enacted Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012. Under this Act, a tiger hunter or poacher is liable to be punished with 2-7 years imprisonment including fine up to one million taka.
With the assistance of the World Bank, a regional project, ‘Strengthening Regional Co-operation for Wildlife Protection’, covering Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal has been undertaken to strengthen wildlife protection, capacity building and restoration of biodiversity in the region.
Crime Control Unit of Forest Department is assisting the law enforcers in checking of smuggling wildlife, illegal trading and demonstration. A Wildlife Rescue Centre has been established in Khulna to provide medicare to sick tigers.
Supported by Regional Wildlife Project, Camera Trapping Survey for estimation of tiger population in the Sundarbans is going on with the assistance of Wildlife Institute of India. The result of the survey is likely to be available in December 2014.
The Prime Minister said a Tiger Response Team has been formed with the Wild Team and the locals at Shyamnagar in Satkhira and 49 Village Response Teams formed surrounding the Sundarbans to minimize the incidence of tiger-human conflicts and to save the stray out tigers. This has made easier to take precautionary measures and exchange information on intrusion of tigers in localities.
She said that the Staffs of the Department of Forest have been trained for immobilization, capture and release of strayed out tigers. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and a bilateral Protocol have been signed between Bangladesh and India for ‘‘Conservation of the Royal Bengal Tigers of the Sundarbans’’
“Following our steps, there was no report of any tiger killing during the last two years. Earlier, on an average 3-4 tigers were killed every year. On the other hand, human casualties have been reduced to 4 from 25-30 a year,” she added.
About 140 representatives from 20 countries, including the 13 tiger range countries (TRCs), and donor agencies are participating in the conference.
The 13 TRCs that are participating in the conference are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam and North Korea.