On 21 November, the Divisional Forest Officer of Noakhali posted a 'heroic' story of how his office rescued a stump-tailed macaque from Sonaimuri. The post contained several pictures of a frightened, chained animal; it seemed as if the officials had caught a thief.
Although the post was liked by many, one netizen voiced his concern about the state in which the animal was kept. Sabit Hasan commented, "Such a rescued animal must be freed inside a large enclosure with sufficient arrangement for it to climb, move around, jump and play, and provided with drinking water. Please take necessary steps."
The Noakhali Divisional Forest Officer Farid Miah remained non-responsive to Sabit, as he did to The Business Standard when we called and texted him.
Through his suggestion, Sabit, who works for the organisation called Ecology and Conservation of the Bengal Slow Loris, upheld a fundamental need any wild animal should be provided with after being rescued from illegal captivity.
Unfortunately, the forest department - the sole custodian of wildlife in Bangladesh - does not have a module or guideline on how to handle rescued animals. Field level foresters use conventional ways of trapping while capturing or rescuing any injured or confiscated animal during their raids.
And then, for transporting them to a forest office, the captured creature may be put in a small cage made of iron rods. No precaution is taken in case of an animal with a contagious disease.
The activities are documented through photographs for social media while most of the foresters think this type of 'positive' propaganda creates or raises awareness on wildlife conservation. But a chained or caged animal hardly upholds animal ethics and animal welfare.
"Whether by a government official or members of a community, no one is allowed to chain a wild animal and project it in public. This is simply cruelty towards animals," said Dr Mohammad Ali Reza Khan, principal wildlife specialist at Dubai Safari Parks, United Arab Emirates.
"The forest department does not have a national policy on wildlife. How will it understand wildlife ethics or ethical treatment of animals?" the renowned wildlife expert questioned.
Animal-custodian organisations, including zoos must aim for high animal welfare standards in their activities. They must have a set of robust, science-based protocols to help improve rehabilitation methods and minimise animal suffering.
Dr Reza said there are ethics and international rules and regulations for rescuing wild animals. They should be kept in humane conditions, given medical treatment and when they are declared disease-free, given sufficient nutritions by a vet and wildlife nutritionist.
"Then these animals can be released back in suitable locations, first in a post release facility and then in the designated wildlife zone," Dr Reza said.
Since 2012, after the establishment of the Forest Department's Wildlife Crime Control Unit, rescue of wild animals and birds has increased. At the same time, projections of rescued animals on social media have also increased.
Several voluntary groups for wildlife conservation have emerged who regularly update their social media followers by posting stories of 'successful' rescue operations. Only a few, both foresters and volunteers, maintain animal ethics.
On 23 October, a Facebook post stated that a Bengal slow loris - an IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List member - was rescued from poachers in Kaptai, Rangamati.
The post also contained a video showing the primate being tied by a GI (galvanised iron) wire and the videographer trying to frame it by dragging the wire. That video showed nothing but a frightened animal that badly needed a peaceful shelter, food and water at that moment.
Two followers of the particular Facebook page responded, questioning the reason behind tying that primate up in such a way that would hurt the animal, even cause its death. However, the admin of the page later informed them the animal was released. But that is the only update.
There is no way for us to see how the captured animals are treated in the rescue centre of the forest department or get a follow-up on them after they are released into the wild.
Md Sharifuzzaman, wildlife and biodiversity conservation officer of the forest department, said that projecting well-treated animals in post-rescue custody will obviously motivate conservationists, instead of showing them chained or caged animals.
"But there is no guideline for local officials or volunteers," Sharifuzzaman said. Some forest department officials have also said that they have no written manual or guideline for handling rescued animals.
Dr Reza who was the lead assessor for the 2016 IUCN Red List in Bangladesh suggested a few things for the safekeeping of rescued animals.
He said, "Rescued animals must be kept in a proper animal holding facility or a house having ample space for the free movement of the animals including climbing, jumping, and drinking water. There should be bathing facilities, sleeping quarters and they must be free from public nuisance, especially from the onlookers."
"Such rescued animals must immediately be freed from the chain or shackle and let inside a shaded or darkish room so that they can have peace," he said, adding that afterwards, the animals should be put under vet care, along with wildlife related caregivers.
They will take care of the animals as mentioned in IUCN, World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) and Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
WAZA-published manual titled 'Caring for Wildlife' suggests that the first stage of action in managing a confiscated live organism is to ensure that the individual is safe, secure and that any suffering has been alleviated as much as possible.
WAZA also cites the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries standard that recommends enclosures [for containment] are designed to allow for normal defence reactions and appropriate 'flight' or escape distance for the animals and birds.
It is safe to assume that photographs of the forest department's rescue operations do not have any similarity with the global standard. Sometimes, the images with caged animals can be referred to as 'solitary confinement', something not at all recommended for the animals.
"The problem is that there is a lack of trained wildlife rescuers in Bangladesh. Logistics for this task is also limited. The transportation ways also seem improper many times. Often we see the same container being used to carry different types of animals and they are not kept in quarantine. This could spread infectious and contagious diseases," warned AMB Sarwar Alam, a conservation biologist at IUCN.