Tigers Under Threat in World's Largest Mangrove Forest

A wild tiger in a body of water
Jamuna TV
Nairobi, Kenya

Tigers Under Threat in World's Largest Mangrove Forest

Ibrahim Khalilullah, a senior reporter at Jamuna Television and an Internews' Earth Journalism Network Fellow, talks to Ana Nieto, Head of Species Conservation Action at IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), about the threats to the tigers in the Sundarbans in Bangladesh, and possible solutions being discussed at the fourth working group meeting negotiations for a Global Biodiversity Framework in Nairobi. The interview was conducted the day after the close of negotiations, on June 27.   

At the first Tiger Conference in St. Petersburg in 2010, 13 countries, including Bangladesh, set a goal of doubling the number of tigers in their respective countries within 12 years. Of these, Nepal has doubled the number of tigers. India and Bhutan have also doubled. But the number of tigers in Bangladesh has not increased by much. The government has not yet realized the importance of conserving the Sundarbans. So, the Sundarbans (Largest Mangrove Forest) is still unprotected. What is IUCN's view on this? What is their advice in this regard? What should Bangladesh do?

Nieto: The Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a Ramsar site, as well as an important Tiger Conservation Landscape, which holds around 200 tigers. This area supports a rich biodiversity and provides important resources to support the livelihoods of local communities.

Conservation efforts to protect tigers, which are listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, is of utmost importance to ensure not only their survival, but also the preservation and health of the entire ecosystem.

IUCN Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP), which is funded by the German Development Cooperation via KfW Development Bank, promotes a multidimensional approach to tiger conservation integrating species, habitat and people. This is done through actions aimed at protecting tigers and their prey species, preserving tiger habitats through effective management, and supporting local communities living in and around tiger landscapes to reduce unsustainable dependence on natural resources and promote sustainable alternative livelihoods.

The Sundarbans exists between two countries, Bangladesh and India. In this situation where the number of tigers has not increased, is it necessary to take special initiative to protect tigers in Bangladesh?

Nieto: The key threats to tigers in the Sundarbans include poaching, the risk of retaliatory killings due to high levels of human-tiger conflicts (which occur as a consequence of local communities’ dependency on natural resources for their livelihoods), forest degradation and climate change. Transboundary collaboration between India and Bangladesh is key to ensure positive conservation results, as well as it is working closely with local communities living in and around this landscape.

IUCN Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP) supports a project in the Sundarban delta in India and Bangladesh since 2018. The project, titled “Protecting tigers, people and their vital habitats in the Sundarban Delta in India and Bangladesh”, aims at reducing human-wildlife conflicts between tigers and humans in villages surrounding the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve in India and the Sundarbans Reserve Forest in Bangladesh.

In particular, it addresses the threat posed by human tiger conflict through the creation of physical barriers to reduce tiger forays into villages, and through community interventions such as training and mobilizing Response Teams to handle conflicts and other wildlife emergency. It also addresses the threat of habitat degradation through the provision of improved cook stoves to households to reduce fuelwood extraction and pressure on forests. In addition, extensive awareness raising initiatives such as tiger conservation ambassadors (Banga bandhus), Tiger Scouts and local campaigns are organized to support positive attitudes of communities towards wildlife in the Sundarbans. The project also aims at promoting greater learning and sharing across the borders to further tiger conservation, and will also conduct a tiger’s prey species survey in the Bangladesh Sundarbans to assess the current status of prey and the carrying capacity of tigers.

This project is implemented by Wildlife Trust of India on the Indian side, and WildTeam and Jahangirnagar University on the Bangladesh side.

Is there any part of this Global Biodiversity Agenda draft that mentions a plan or initiative to save endangered species like the Royal Bengal Tiger? If so, which target is mentioned?

Nieto: In the draft of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the first goal specifically refers to species conservation, calling for the reduction of extension risk of species, with a decrease in the proportion of species that are threatened. Two key targets are target 4 (“Ensure active management actions to enable the recovery and conservation of species and the genetic diversity of wild and domesticated species, including through ex situ conservation, and effectively manage human-wildlife interactions to avoid or reduce human-wildlife conflict.”) and target 5 (“Ensure that the harvesting, trade and use of wild species is sustainable, legal, and safe for human health”), although many other targets of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework are relevant and will contribute to the conservation of threatened species, for example target 3 that aims at protecting 30% of the world’s land and marine areas by 2030.

IUCN in partnership with other organizations is developing the Global Species Action Plan (GSAP) to support the implementation of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The GSAP identifies and provides guidance on the actions required to achieve the necessary species outcomes under the proposed targets of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

This story was produced as part of a reporting fellowship to the 2022 UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 4th Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, led by Internews' Earth Journalism Network. It was first published in Bangla on by Jamuna TV. It has been translated to English and lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner image: A tiger in its natural habitat / Credit: Ranae Smith via Unsplash.

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