- No effective action by the forest department
- Several cases filed, but they are yet to be settled
- Asian elephant is an endangered species
- Only one person arrested so far for death of five elephants
Killing of elephants by humans has risen alarmingly in recent times. Coming down from the mountains in search of food, elephants are being killed in traps set by humans.
The Forest Department, which is responsible for protecting the forest and its wildlife, is doing nothing but recovering the bodies of dead elephants and humans, or giving compensation.
There are only 13 countries with Asian wild elephants. Greater Chattogram, Sylhet division, and Sherpur, are the habitats of this rare species of elephant in Bangladesh. Asian elephants are on the verge of extinction, being killed by humans indiscriminately.
According to the country's animal experts, 38 elephants have died in the past two years – most of them were killed when the elephants came down from the hills in search of food.
In the last one week, five elephants have been killed across the country. Last Saturday, the Forest Department recovered the body of an Asian elephant from the hill valley of Harbang in Chakaria upazila of Cox's Bazar. An autopsy by the forest department revealed that the elephant was killed by humans.
Chattogram Divisional Forest Officer Rafiqul Islam Chowdhury said, "According to a 2016 survey, there are 268 resident elephants in the country. Apart from these, a few more elephants come from neighbouring countries and return again. There are 320-330 elephants in the country including these elephants. Now the number of elephants is declining rapidly due to the rampant killings."
Abdus Sattar, a member of the Emergency Elephant Response Team, said, "In the last 20-25 years, people have been entering and occupying elephant habitats. They are cultivating in hilly terrain, triggering growing conflict between elephants and humans. Sometimes people are trampled by elephants, and sometimes people are killing elephants by setting up traps to save their crops."
Aminul Islam Mithu, a wildlife journalist and conservationist, told The Business Standard, "The Asian elephant is classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but the country's forest department is playing the role of a spectator only."
No effective measures to protect elephants
Forest Department officials become active to bury the body of an elephant after it is killed. They recover the electric wire and spear used to kill the elephant but after two or three days all activities stop.
So far, only one person has been arrested in connection with the death of five elephants in a week and two cases have been filed. Environmentalists say the administration is least concerned about protecting wildlife.
Questions have been raised as to whether the Forest Department has the ability to take care of wildlife conservation or even whether this organisation is sincere in protecting elephants at all. The department says that due to lack of manpower and infrastructure, it is not possible to curb killing elephants.
Moazzem Riyad, president of Save the Nature, said, "In order to protect the elephants, cultivation and building houses in forest lands must be stopped. The forest lands must be returned to the forest and the general public needs to be made aware of this."
Dr Nasir Uddin, a member of the IUCN's elephant expert team, said, "We have to identify places where there are conflicts between elephants and humans. The right habitat for wildlife needs to be preserved, and the uninterrupted movement of elephants has to be ensured."
During a visit to Chattogram on Sunday, Mollah Rezaul Karim, head of the Bangladesh Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Zone, told TBS, "The forest department is providing assistance to those affected by elephants. About Tk3 crore in funds are still unused in our hands. On the other hand, we have filed thousands of cases for wildlife protection but those cases are not being settled. Infrastructure development alone, without protecting the environment, is not balanced development at all."