Protocol to be signed with India for elephant management

DHAKA : Bangladesh will sign a protocol with India to strengthen mutual cooperation for the better management of trans-boundary elephants as many big mammals enter Bangladesh every year, increasing human-elephant conflicts, reports UNB.
“On July 27 last, we held the 2nd Indo-Bangladesh Dialogue on Trans-boundary Conservation of Elephants in Shillong. During the meeting, we (both the countries) agreed to sign a protocol on trans-boundary elephant management,” said conservator of forests (wildlife and nature conservation) Jahidul Kabir.
He said Bangladesh Forest Department and its Indian counterpart are now working sincerely to prepare a protocol in this regard and the legal instrument is expected to be signed by 2018.
“Once the protocol is signed between Bangladesh and India, it’ll give guidelines on how wild elephants will be managed if they cross the border,” Kabir told UNB on the occasion of World Elephant Day, observed on Saturday (Aug 12).
Earlier, the forest conservator said, there are 59 crossing points of elephants in bordering areas, but now it declines to 39 points. “We’re talking to our counterpart so that the border at these points could be kept open round the clock for the free movement of elephants.”
Asian elephants are migratory animals. They can cover considerable distance within a short period of time. In forests, elephant herds follow a well-defined migration route. The survival of this mega species largely depends on corridors and routes because they allow elephants to safely migrate, access food sources, and establish crucial genetic links between herds.

The presence of traffic on roads, construction of steep retaining walls, barbed-wire fences, and the presence of human population along the corridor and routes can limit the migration of elephants that ultimately hinders the genetic diversity.
According to a new study, ‘Status of Asian Elephants in Bangladesh’ jointly conducted by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bangladesh and Bangladesh Forest Department, a total of 39 natural crossing points that elephants use regularly to migrate between Bangladesh and neighbouring countries.
Among them, about 33 crossing points are along the Indian border and remaining six are on the Myanmar frontier area. Most of the crossing points fall in Bangladesh’s northern part.
About the vagrant trans-boundary elephant-crossing points, the study revealed that seven vagrant points were identified along the international boundary of northeastern districts of Bangladesh. Stray elephants from India inadvertently entered Bangladesh by breaking the barbed-wire fences or crossing rivers.
Elephants every year cross the border and enter the localities of Bangladesh seeking food as they have lost their natural habitats. They frequently lock into clashes with humans and damage crop field.
An elderly farmer was killed and his wife and son were injured in an attack by wild elephants at Haluahati village in Sherpur on Thursday night when a herd of elephants, numbering 30-40, came down from Indian hills. According to Forest Department data, at least 227 people and 63 elephants were killed in human-elephant conflicts in last 13 years. About 16 people and four elephants were killed in last year alone. IUCN country representative Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad said the protocol should be signed between Bangladesh and India to make the border points opened so that elephants can cross the border freely. The protocol will also pave the way for the forest officials of Bangladesh and India to manage and conserve the wild elephants effectively, he added.
Bangladesh shares its borders with India and Myanmar marked by recently installed barbed-wire fences.
The 2016 study shows that all the three countries have started development initiatives, such as road networks, sand mining, stone mining, coal mining, and conversion of forest land to crop fields and orchards near the border areas, which hampers the free movement of elephants.