About 10,000 deer are slaughtered by poachers in the Sundarbans and its adjacent reserved forests in five southern districts of Bangladesh every year, a survey has found.
The study identified at least 20 local gangs, which are involved in illegal hunting of this wild animal.
The Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh (WTB) and Zoological Society of Bangladesh jointly conducted the survey in 2010.
Titled “Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan Threats: Prey Assessment”, the report was disclosed to the media in Dhaka last year and sent to different government and non-government offices concerned to take necessary steps.
The findings show that the deer killing gangs are spread across eight upazilas of Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Barguna and Pirojpur. A whopping 3.47 lakh families in those eight upazilas are involved in deer poaching.
The appalling figures also show that one of every three families in the upazilas, or 1.15 lakh families, depended on deer poaching to run families.
The eight upazilas include Shymnagar of Satkhira, Koira and Dakop of Khulna, Mongla, Morelganj, and Sharankhola of Bagerhat, Patharghata of Barguna, and Mothbaria of Pirojpur.
Dr Anwarul Islam, country chief for the WTB and a zoology professor at Dhaka University, said there was mismanagement in the supervision of the Sundarbans. Strict measures should be taken to protect the threatened deer population in the forest, he said.
There are an estimated 1.20 lakh deer in the Sundarbans now, according to the survey report.
Prof Anwarul Islam said the Bengal tigers would be threatened if they faced crisis of deer, their main food, in the world’s largest mangrove forest. The Sundarbans will also lose its image and natural beauties, if the numbers of deer and tigers are reduced, he added.
The deer hunting gangs usually catch the animal with traps and feeding them poisonous food, according to some people involved in deer poaching.
The sources also said the deer hunters sent venison to different places, especially to Dhaka, and sold to individuals particularly high government officials. Each kilogram of venison costs Tk 300-400, they said.
On July 11, a team of Coast Guard seized 350 kilograms of venison and a live deer on Bishkhali river under Patharghata upazila, Barguna. The poachers however fled after leaving the trawler on the river bank.
Patharghata upazila is used as a safe passage for deer and venison smuggling, said Gobindo Roy, divisional forest officer (DFO) for Patuakhali-Barguna. He said the authorities were trying to protect the wildlife.
On February 19, law enforcers seized 10 kilograms of venison, a rawhide, and two traps in Sharankhola and arrested two poachers.
Just a month before (January), a Coast Guard team seized two maunds of venison and arrested two poachers in Patharghata upazila. In the same month, seven live deer were rescued in Gyanpara area in the upazila.
The DU professor, Anwarul Islam, however, said the occasional drives of the law enforcers to check deer poaching were just eyewash.