Forests and Environment Minister Anwar Hossain Manju has rubbished as misleading the survey report that says only 106 tigers are left in Bangladesh’s Sundarbans.
Participating in a discussion Thursday on the World Tiger Day that was observed the day before, Manju appeared unfazed by reports that tigers were on the brink of extinction.
“Those who produce such survey reports are not saying the truth. Statistics often lie,” he said.
On a lighter vein, the minister quipped: “Come on, let us now go out counting tigers. Let us see how many are around.”
The recent Tiger census jointly carried out by the Environment Department and India’s Wildlife Institute on the camera capture method found only 106 tigers inhabiting the Bangladesh part of Sundarbans.
In 1975, census records show there were 350 tigers that rose to 430-450 in 1984. In 1992 the Department of Environment survey found 359, and in 1993, a pug-mark survey found 362.
In 2004, 440 tigers were found and a 2009 telemetric survey found 400-450 tigers.
Manju believes the survey report prepared by the department that he heads could not be taken seriously.
But experts say the number of tigers had sharply dwindled over the last few years as they were suffering a crisis of habitat.Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her anxiety over the fall in numbers at the Stocktaking Conference under a Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP) last September.
She said poaching and loss of habitat were pushing the tigers to extinction and urged world leaders to save tigers.
But her colleague Manju seems to have other ideas – strange ones indeed.
“Firstly, tigers are not of our country. They migrate here,” he says.
“A lot of animals have gone extinct already. But for sure, the tigers would not go extinct in our lifetime.”
And what he said left many gaping.
“There are more tigers in cages than in the forest. So tigers are not going extinct anytime soon. At least not in our lifetime.”
The minister tried taking some of his ministry’s responsibility for conservation projects funded by the World Bank and the European Union.
“They encourage preservation of tigers. But when reports of their dwindling numbers are published, everyone blames the government.
“Nobody says anything to those who have taken responsibility to preserve tigers.”
Then he tried to explain the drop in numbers to the migratory nature of the animals that makes them go over to the Indian side of the Sundarbans.
“I say, they have gone on a trip to the other side. They will be back.”
The minister went on to justify the loss of habitat, “I think the people of the southern region do not want to preserve tigers. Because they will have to cut trees of Sundarbans to use as fuel. There are no alternatives.
“The people are fighting to survive in the Sundarbans. Maybe we do not have the mentality to preserve tigers.”