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Saving Wild Tigers
Posted on November 24, 2011
Saving wild tigers requires preserving and protecting large areas of forest while at the same time combating the never-ending demand for forest products by the overpopulated periphery villages. The tiger has become a symbol of global conservation and efforts to try and save the tiger have become ever so pertinent in recent years. Ecologists – who study the earth’s ecosystems, suggest that the plant and animal communities that share our planet are interlinked, so that the loss of a single species may have unpredictable and dangerous consequences for all of us. This is particularly true for the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans. The same forest that shelters the tiger also harbors millions of plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. So saving the tiger really amounts to saving the entire ecosystem.
The Sundarbans is the last habitat that boasts a healthy tiger population, though it is not without its problems–human encroachment being perhaps the most serious as the population explodes in and around the forest. This increased population puts severe pressure on the forest, the home of the Bengal Tiger. As human and wildlife have coexisted for centuries, there must be a workable solution to these problems and just being tough on the villagers is not a good idea. The villagers’ lives still revolve around the forest: gathering firewood, collecting honey, fishing in the canals. Depriving the villagers of their livelihood will only create resentment against wildlife and the government and NGO’s enforcing these restrictions. Getting the villagers involved in conservation and improving their standard of living is a better, and more sustainable, way to make a difference. Ultimately, we must help to teach the villagers to understand and appreciate, both philosophically and practically, that a live tiger is worth much more than a dead one.
Opportunities to improve the interaction between human populations and wildlife exist in the form of communication and awareness. Recently, STP took the initiative of launching the VTRT (Village Tiger Response Team) Road show. The plan was to create an atmosphere of festivity and happiness within which VTRT members and their activities would be given recognition in front of their communities’ thus increasing local acceptance and support for them. With this objective the VTRT Road Show 2011 kicked off on October 12 at Tengrakhali. After 18 successful events covering the hub points linking all VTRT villages, the Road Show ended on November 1st in Shorbotkhali, Khulna. Almost 100,000 people attended the shows in total. The events faced many obstacles as the region comprises of poor communications facilities and hostile weather conditions. But our brave teams nonetheless weathered all the storms and the ever welcoming communities lent a helping hand ensuring all the events took place as planned. Along with the local villagers, members from the local govt., forest department officials and local media also participated. Every event began amidst beautifully decorated colourful venues with local children singing the national anthem. The VTRTs introduced themselves and speeches were delivered by the team leaders and guests. Games were arranged for the audience and gifts were given to everyone who participated. The main attraction included popular local singers and in some events local villagers, students and even some guests also took the stage and displayed their talents. The audience enjoyed themselves immensely and in some areas even requested for the show to be continued for another day. The atmosphere was one of pure joy, enthusiasm and celebration.
In the remote villages of the Sundarbans the VTRTs, with their dedication and bravery are the first, last and only line of defense for the villagers as well as the tigers. The VTRT Road Show 2011 was a small way of showing appreciation to the brave VTRT team members for their constant vigilance towards saving tigers.
NB: STP formed 29 community volunteer teams called VTRT to assist FD to reduce retaliatory killings of stray tigers by villagers, decrease human sufferings due to tiger attacks in the Sundarbans and help improve the relationship between the FD and the local people.
Mahsoun N R Choudhury
Programme Officer – Communication
Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh