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Environment

Bangladesh okays strict law to protect endangered animals

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh has approved a law that sets jail terms of up to 12 years for deliberately killing tigers and other wild animals endangered in the South Asian country, officials said on Saturday.

A recent cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also agreed to provide reparations to the families of victims killed or maimed by the animals that range between 100,000 taka ($1,415) and 50,000 taka.

Each family will also get 25,000 taka as compensation if wild animals destroy assets such as houses and crops.

“The cabinet approved jail terms from two years to 12 years for killing endangered snakes and animals including tigers,” Hasina’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told Reuters.

The minimum jail term will be two years for killing pythons and crocodiles and a maximum of 12 years for killing tigers and elephants, Azad said.

Hasina will attend a conference on tigers in St. Petersburg, Russia, from Monday to discuss ways and means to protect the animals, officials said.

Bangladesh’s southwestern mangrove forests, called Sundarbans and which also stretch across the border with India, are currently home to just 400 tigers and its southeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts have 300 elephants. Many animals are killed in conflicts with humans, who are increasingly encroaching on their habitat, forest officials said.

At least 80 people, and some 15 tigers, have been killed in last five years across Bangladesh-controlled areas of the Sundarbans, which are dotted with hundreds of small islands and criss-crossed by rivers.

Some 60 percent of the 10,000 square km (3,900 square mile) Sundarbans lies in Bangladesh and the rest in India’s eastern state of West Bengal.

On average, nearly 20 people are killed every year by wild elephants in Bangladesh’s southeastern forests region bordering Myanmar and eastern India.

The elephants often stray in to villages in search of food and then go on a rampage when confronted by villagers, forest officials said.

At least a third of the 60,000 families who live in Bangladesh’s Sundarbans live off the mangrove forest, putting them in direct conflict with its animals. The families collect honey, venture deep into the forest for fish and other aquatic life and also collect timber and straw, with our without permits from the forestry department.

One of the world’s most densely populated nations, Bangladesh has forest cover of only 17.5 percent.

Reporting by Nizam Ahmed, editing by Miral Fahmy

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