Felling of trees, poaching threaten wildlife in Rangamati

 

 

Rampant felling of trees, Jhum cultivation and poaching in the reserve forest in Pablakhali and surrounding areas of Rangamati have led to disappearance of 37 species of birds including the rare White Winged Duck and some other wild life probably for good, a leading wild life expert has said.

Location of Rangamati district

"The last reported but unconfirmed sighting of the duck was two years ago. But during my recent field trip, I could not see or confirm its presence any more", Dr. Mohammad Ali Reza Khan said yesterday while giving a talk on wildlife in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The talk was arranged by the Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh (FEJB). Dr. Khan presented the findings during the trip to the reserve forest which once comprised 42,000 hectares, some 60-km northeast of Rangamati and near the border with Mizoram state of India. He visited the area from August 15 to August 22.

Dr. Khan, a former teacher of Zoology department at the Dhaka University and author of several books on wild life, currently works in the UAE as head of Dubai Zoo.

The forest was home to the While Winged Duck, locally known as Bhadi Hans; only about 2,000 ducks of this species are now surviving in the world, mostly in Assam in north-eastern India, Myanmar and Thailand.

The massive Civet trees about 150 feet in height along with wild mango tree Uria, Sundul and Garjan trees provided nest to the duck that weighs up to two and a half kg. But the forest was being gradually destroyed as people from the plains were settled there after it was declared a sanctuary in 1983. Some 10,000 hectares of the forest were lost due to the settlements.

There were 80 species of birds in the forest in 1980. But now only 43 species including Owls and common Mynas were found. Fish population in the wetlands has also declined.

Telapia, an alien species, now dominates the wetlands, harming the native species of fish.

Dr. Khan said that he saw indiscriminate felling of trees in the forest. "Forest department officials seldom venture out to the ranges. They do not go far beyond their beats without escort by law enforcing agencies".

"A lot of 17,000 cubic feet of teak, all properly sized, were lying for quite some time in the open at the stackyard of Baghaihat forest office, a testimony to a seizure that are only made when law enforcers found those being floated down the river. But these seized timbers worth millions of taka are being wasted there", Dr Khan added.


Remains of teak plantation of Forest department at Baghaichhari: an illegal harvest of logs lies on the roadside for shipment.


Stacks of seized timber at Baghaichhari forest office


Logs fuel the fire in the clay oven in a tea shop at Baghaichhari bazaar.

He suggested that Jhum cultivation should be stopped, forest department has to increase its surveillance, both tribals and settlers should be encouraged to become stake holders in forestry and management of national parks or wild life sanctuaries must have knowledge of eco-tourism to save whatever is surviving.

Source: The Daily Star, August 28, 2000
By Special Correspondent

 

 

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