Staff Correspondent: The Sundarbans Tiger Conservation Project, an initiative of the Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change to count and breed Bengal tigers, is yet to take off as the fund has not been disbursed in five months.
The ministry approved the project worth almost Tk36 crore on 23 March and expected the fund to be disbursed by the finance ministry in May, said forest ministry officials. The tenure of the project was from April 2022 to March 2025.
“We are responsible for implementing the project, but it will be financed by the finance ministry, which they have not yet done. That is why we are not able to start counting tigers,” said Begum Habibun Nahar, deputy minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
Mihir Kumar Do, forest conservator of Khulna region, said the Bengal tiger is most important for the sustainability of the biodiversity of the mangrove forest. This project was mainly taken up to breed tigers but it is stuck due to not getting the fund.
Of late, Bengal tigers have been seen more often in the Sundarbans, which means that the number of tigers in the forest has increased. But without a count, it is not possible to determine their population, he added.
According to the Forest Department, there are currently 3,840 Bengal tigers in the wild in 13 countries of the world. The latest 2018 survey recorded 114 Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans; there were 106 in 2015 and 404 in the 2004 survey.
Under the project, Tk3.24 crore was estimated for counting tigers, hiring launches and support boats for four months, purchasing 200 special category cameras for counting tigers using the camera trapping method, purchasing batteries, SD cards, and survey through consultants, providing training to all members of the survey team, data collection and data analysis.
Finance ministry on Monday decided in principle to provide Tk3.24 crore to the Department of Forest, said Abu Naser Mohshin Hossain, project director of the Sundarbans Tiger Conservation Project.
Apart from this, the remaining money was supposed to be spent on tiger conservation, which includes training 340 members of 49 village Tiger Response Teams and 185 members of four range community patrol groups to tackle tiger-human conflict in the Sundarbans, supplying them with clothing and holding monthly meetings with forest personnel, Conservator Mihir said.
He added that 80% of the food source of Bengal tigers are deer. Under this project, there is also an initiative to survey prey animals for tigers, such as deer, wild boars, etc.
The project is also supposed to carry out activities such as the transfer of tigers to keep male and female tigers close to each other for breeding, satellite installation and monitoring of two tigers to know their roaming areas, parasite infection and other diseases of tigers, data collection, analyses and publications in the form of reports.
Almost every year, the habitat of Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans is damaged by fires. Therefore, the construction of two observation towers in parts of the mangrove forest where a fire is more prone to occur during the dry season and procurement of fire fighting equipment will also be done through this project.
In the Sundarbans, rivers and canals in the adjoining villages are flooded and tigers enter the villages. To tackle the issue, an initiative will be taken to resolve the tiger-human conflict by constructing nylon fencing in a 60km area.
Mihir Kumar Do said all areas of the Sundarbans were submerged in water due to major cyclones and floods like Sidr in 2007, Aila in 2009 and Yash in 2021. During such times tigers and tiger prey enter the locality for shelter. Through this project, 12 mud shelters will be established in the Sundarbans for animals.
Besides, 12 short-term consultant experts will be appointed for special training, survey completion, data collection and analysis, and report preparation activities under the project.
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