Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – Bangladesh government along with Nepal and Bhutan has joined the “Strengthening Regional Cooperation in Wildlife Protection in Asia” project to conserve wildlife and tackle illegal wildlife trade. This is the first World Bank supported regional projection in South Asia.
South Asia is home to 13-15 percent of the world’s biodiversity including some of the world’s most endangered species. Habitats across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal are home to over 65 percent of the 3,000 or so remaining wild tigers. With South Asia’s rich biodiversity, the region is a lucrative place for trade; however no single country can manage the threats of poaching and illegal wildlife trade on its own. 
India has demonstrated its commitment to cooperate in regional wildlife conservation through its bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) relating to wildlife and ecosystems with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal and is expected to collaborate on furthering the project’s goals.  
The project supports the Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD) in enforcing the newly enacted Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act 2012 which was approved by the Parliament on July 10, 2012. In addition to strengthening the capacity of the Wildlife Circle, responsible for wildlife management within BFD, the project will support the establishment of a Wildlife Center which will undertake training, research, education and awareness on the issues of wildlife conservation and protection. 
As mandated by the new Act, BFD has created a Wildlife Crime Control Unit (WCCU) to carry out forensics, quarantine, and provide legal support to Bangladesh in discharging its responsibilities as a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  
The project will support the institutional strengthening of WCCU.  WCCU has already detected and filed 28 cases on wildlife offences and seized about 2120 wild animals since its establishment in February 2012.  The number of wildlife crime arrests is at its highest within the last ten years, which is indicative of improved wildlife protection in the country.  
A Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit has been prepared by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with the support of CITES, INTERPOL, World Customs Organization and the World Bank. 
The five agencies have formed an International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). The toolkit provides a range of options that will enable each country to create an effective strategy tailored to its unique needs.  Bangladesh is the first country in Asia to pilot this toolkit.  
Patrolling in the Sundarbans has been enhanced by BFD, with support from the project, to introduce Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) patrolling for tiger conservation. 
The project has also started special research programs to map elephant habitats and migration corridors, development of pilot human-elephant and human-langur conflict management models, wildlife monitoring and turtle conservation programs as well as tourist carrying capacity assessments and ecotourism models for the Sundarbans.    
The Forest Department is implementing the $36.0 million five-year long project. The project commenced on June 2011.
BBN/SSR/AD-06Sept13-7:34 pm (BST)