National, Back Page

Elephant extinction threat looms large

Published : 14 Aug 2022 12:00 AM

Wild elephants are being killed in Bangladesh, while the number of the Asian elephants in the country has declined significantly over the past few years due to loss of their habitat. 

Against this backdrop, wild elephants are closer to extinction in Bangladesh. With the way elephants are being killed by humans and the authorities concerned showing indifference towards conservation of the wild animal, and if this trend continues, there will be no elephants in the country except in zoos in the next few years, said conservationists and environmental activists.    

They said that the wild elephant population in the country has come down by about 200 as their habitat is getting smaller due to the increase in human settlements in forests and hills and implementation of development projects in forests and hilly areas. An increase in poaching and the killing of wild elephants following the rise of human-elephant conflict are also largely responsible for the fear of elephant extinction.

“Asian elephants don’t hurt anyone easily. But now they are victims of loss of habitat, brutality and poaching. Once elephants used to be seen in Hatirjheel and Peelkhana areas in the capital. The elephants are not commonly seen anymore,” said Dr Gulshan Ara Latifa, a Zoology professor at Dhaka University.

In a keynote at a webinar, she mentioned that the total number of elephants in the country is now only some 200, and decreasing. 

Emphasising on the conservation of wild elephants, she said that the habitat of wild elephants must be preserved to save the largest wild animal. If necessary, special measures should be taken to conserve elephants by creating reserved forests, she added. 

Referring to the destruction of elephant habitat due to the implementation of various development projects in forests, Prof Gulshan Ara Latifa said, “We have to emphasize on the conservation of forests and wildlife while we are undertaking and implementing development projects.” 

In his presidential speech at the webinar, Prof Dr Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, chairman of environmental science department at Stamford University, also emphasised on the conservation of forests in the interest of saving the wildlife.  

“Elephants are a very important wildlife. We must first save the forests to save all kinds of wild animals, including the elephant. If the country has forests, there will be elephants and other wild animals in the country,” he said.

He called upon the environmentalists, environmental activists and environmental organisations to continue their efforts to play a vital role in protecting forests and wildlife.

The Bangladesh Nature Conservation Alliance (BNCA), a coalition of 33 environmental organisations, arranged the webinar on Friday (August 12) on the occasion of the World Elephant Day-2022. Prof Dr Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder is the convener of the alliance. 

Mohammad Azaz, joint convener of the BNCA and chairman at River and Delta Research Centre (RDRC); moderated the event, while Abdul Wahab, executive director at Centre for Global Environment and Development (CGED); Suman Shams, chairman of Nongor; Dr Mahmuda Parveen, environmental science teacher; Adnan Azad, wildlife researcher; Ehsanul Haque Jasim, vice-president of Marine Journalists’ Network (MJN), Rashedul Majid, chief executive of Environment People; Sadia Chowdhury of MJN; Nayon Sorkar, founder & chief coordinator at Save Future Bangladesh; Aminul Mithu; Shahid Hasan Khan; Alamgir Hossain and Swapan Kumar Nath also spoke on the occasion. 

The BNCA called upon the authorities concerned to protect elephants and other wild animals in the country. 

The speakers of the webinar warned that if the killing of wild elephants and loss of their habitat continue, the Asian elephants from Bangladesh could disappear forever.

Asian elephants have roamed Bangladesh for hundreds of years. A number of the elephants were killed in different parts of Bangladesh in recent years. 

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the wild elephant has become a critically endangered species in Bangladesh. Only a century ago, they were abundant in different forests of the country. 

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Its increasing human settlements have encroached into forests and hills which reduced the spaces for wild animals, especially the wild elephant. Human settlement in the spaces originally inhabited by elephants has increased the human-elephant conflict in the country.