Friday, November 12, 2010

Bangladesh's Herons and Egrets Threatened by Poachers

A Bangladeshi heron hunter showing his catch of the day

Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary in India's Tamil Nadu state has seen danger to its bird population after authorities had apprehended two poachers with egrets in their nets. But now, India's neighbor Bangladesh has become a witness to the plight of these wading birds. The vast marshlands in the country's northern regions have become a hot-bed for poachers, as they indiscriminately trap and kill the birds and sell their meat to customers in Dhaka. According to Dr. SMA Rashid, a wildlife expert, he has seen vendors selling these birds at different intersections of the capital city. But what is worse is that although the police know about this, they are not taking any action.

Egrets and herons were normally classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as "Least Threatened," which means their population was satisfactory. But the poaching of these birds in Bangladesh's northern regions has reached the point that both the species face extinction. Environmentalists warn that the regions' ecosystem would come under threat, as the birds are disappearing rapidly. Furthermore, the poachers kill the birds using airguns which do not require a license making the situation worse along with low quantity of awareness against the practice and law enforcement not doing anything to stop it.

While the authorities have no statistics about the past and present numbers of the birds, but scientists and bird-watchers believed the number has reduced by half in the last twenty years. According to Hamidul Hoque, as assistant professor of zoology at Carmichael University College, the bird numbers are decreasing due to the lack of prey availability. He stated that indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides, along with shrinking water bodies has led to the depletion of food for the birds and other animals. Other people who agree with the idea include Divisional Forest Officer Abdul Kalam Azad, District Live Stock Officer Shamsul Hoque, and Additional Director of the Department of Agriculture Extension Mohshin Ali. Also, the reason for not taking action has been addressed by Tapan Kumar Dey, conservator of forest wildlife division of the Forest Department. In his own words, the reason there was no action was because the nation does not have enough manpower but is doing is best with limited resources.

In my opinion, Bangladesh is in a great need of help regarding this terrible situation. By just saying the nation is doing its best is not enough to show that it is really handling the problem. I feel that Bangladesh's people need to team up together and if possible, seek help from India in order to put a stop to such a barbaric practice. Egrets and herons play an important role in the wetlands ecosystem of keeping it in balance. In addition to that, egrets, especially cattle egrets, play a key role in keeping the bodies of cattle and other large herbivores free of parasites. Without them, it will create a major impact on the cattle population in Bangladesh and lead to a downfall which would deeply affect the population of villagers. However, I'm satisfied to see that there is a sense of hope where a bird lover named Hashem Ali has been keeping vigil of poachers and convinced the villagers never to cut down bamboo brushes which the birds rely on for shelter. But still, it is important that serious must be taken in order to curb down this brutal practice.

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