Despite official assertions of a successful crackdown on pirate gangs participating in the trade, Bangladesh remains a key hub for the poaching of endangered tigers, according to a new study published Friday.
One of the world’s greatest populations of Bengal tigers may be found in the huge Sundarbans mangrove forest, which straddles India and Bangladesh.
Their pelts, bones, and meat are purchased by black marketeers as part of a larger illicit wildlife trade worth an estimated $20 billion worldwide each year.
According to Panthera and the Chinese Academy of Sciences research, tiger parts taken in the Sundarbans were shipped to 15 countries, with India and China being the most prevalent destinations.
“Bangladesh has a much more significant role in the illegal tiger trade than we previously realized,” said research co-author Rob Pickles in a statement.
Before a government crackdown in 2016, pirate organizations operating in the Sundarbans discovered a profitable trade in tiger poaching.
According to official numbers, at least 117 pirates were killed and hundreds more were imprisoned, while many others surrendered as part of a government amnesty.
Panthera’s study, published in the journal Conservation Science and Practise, found that the void left by the crackdown was filled by more than 30 expert tiger poaching syndicates and opportunistic poachers.
Traders used their own logistical firms and, in some cases, camouflaged their actions by using licenses for lawful wildlife trafficking, according to the report.
The study, which was based in part on interviews with wildlife trafficking participants, also discovered that domestic demand for tiger parts has grown since the crackdown, owing to Bangladesh’s expanding economy.
According to the report, wealthy local consumers were buying medications made from tiger parts “as well as large ornamental items for display such as skulls and skins.”
The results were challenged by Bangladesh’s official Sundarbans conservator, Abu Naser Mohsin Hossain, who claimed that the campaign had halted the illicit trade.
“We have implemented measures to protect the Bengal tiger population in the Sundarbans,” he said to AFP.
“In the last five years, no tiger has died as a result of tiger-human conflict.” The number of tiger sightings has grown.”
According to an official census issued in 2019, just 114 Bengal tigers live in Bangladesh’s section of the Sundarbans, up marginally from a record low four years previous.
According to Panthera, the number one danger to tigers worldwide is poaching, and China is the largest overall driver of demand, mostly for the use of their body parts in traditional medicine.