Empowering communities to save tigers in the Sundarbans

Md Samsul Huda
Thursday, June 8th, 2017


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina handing over the award to a female VTRT member at a function on June 4. (Photo: Courtesy)

 

How WildTeam’s volunteer group is revolutionizing community conservation

 

The Village Tiger Response Team (VTRT), a community volunteer group supported by local conservation organization WildTeam, was honored with the ‘Bangabandhu Award for Wildlife Conservation 2017’ in recognition for its outstanding contributions to tiger conservation in Bangladesh.

 

Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina handed over the award at the inauguration of World Environment Day & National Tree Planation Campaign 2017 and Environment Fair & Tree Fair 2017 at Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) in Dhaka on Sunday (4 June 2017).

 

As a non-profit organization, WildTeam has been working for biodiversity conservation since 2003 and received the prestigious Award in 2011. VTRT was introduced in the Bangladesh Sundarbans in 2007 by WildTeam to safeguard the critically endangered tiger and other wildlife in addition to promoting conservation practices among the communities living around Bangladesh Sundarbans.

 

Talking about the VTRT receiving the award, WildTeam Chairman Enayetullah Khan said, “The award is a great recognition for the selfless volunteers who have been working hard to make the Sundarbans safer both for the humans and wildlife. WildTeam is also extremely proud of its outstanding community conservation efforts in the Sundarbans through the VTRTs.”

 

Currently, 49 VTRTs comprising 340 members are working to reduce retribution killing of tiger, reduce livestock depredation by tiger, and develop community capacity to deliver more efficient Tiger-Human Conflict management, forest working safety and sustainable use of forest resources.

 

WildTeam CEO Dr. Md. Anwarul Islam said, “We believe people are the solution and the VTRT members have proved that the community is the best game changer for nature. The award makes us all proud of VTRTs and the extraordinary efforts they have been putting together to secure a better future for tigers in the Sundarbans.”

 

WildTeam is also the key implementer of USAID’s Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity (Bagh), a four-year (2014-18) Project dedicated to tiger conservation in collaboration with the Forest Department. In line with WildTeam’s strategic priorities, Bagh has been supporting the VTRTs for empowering the local communities to deliver a sustaining conservation impact in the Sundarbans periphery.

 

With support from Forest Department, the VTRTs rescued and set free 3 tigers and more than 210 other wild animals from 2012 to 2016. The dedicated volunteer group also effectively managed 30 stray tiger incidents (sending back stray tigers to the forest) and recovered the bodies of 24 tiger attack victims during the period. They also provided emergency first-aid to 7 people injured by tiger attacks and held a total of 1,487 village meetings to raise awareness and respond to emergency human-tiger conflict incidents from 2012 to 2016. WildTeam has so far included 20 women volunteers in the VTRTs to foster gender mainstreaming in its community-led conservation efforts. The VTRT members also helped the Forest Department and firefighters respond quickly to two fire incidents took place in the Sundarbans in April 2016. Every VTRT member symbolizes bravery, courage, and leadership in their community and the award will help to create a more sustainable institutional format and mobilize new resources for this volunteer group.

 

About WildTeam

 

WildTeam, formerly Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh (WTB), was established in 2003 by a small group of dedicated conservationists with the aim of protecting the rapidly disappearing natural assets of Bangladesh. The organization’s name was changed to WildTeam in 2012. WildTeam envisions a future with more wildlife to enrich people’s lives and more wild places for the magnificent diversity of life on earth. WildTeam has four core values: 1. We celebrate nature; 2. We believe people are the solution; 3. We grounded in reality; and 4. We act fearlessly.

 

Since establishment, WildTeam has been working to protect the threatened species and their habitats in Bangladesh, including the Hoolock Gibbons in the northeastern region, the elephants in the north and central and the southeast, the bears in the northeast, southeast, north and central regions; and the birds in the northeastern haors and coastal areas. WildTeam has also been involved in identifying and learning from community-based conservation groups via our Community Conserved Areas assessment in the northeast, north, central and southeast.

 

In 2008, the Sundarbans Tiger Project (STP) came under the umbrella of WildTeam which is currently known as TigerTeam initiative, a joint initiative of the University of Minnesota and the Bangladesh Forest Department, supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since then, WildTeam has worked predominantly in the Sundarbans mangrove forest ecosystem, home to the Royal Bengal Tiger: a flagship species for the ecosystem and symbol of pride for Bangladesh. Currently, WildTeam is leading the implementation of USAID’s Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity – BAGH, with technical support from the Smithsonian Institution and Bangladesh Centre for Advance Studies. WildTeam and Zoological Society of London jointly formed Noazesh Knowledge Centre (NKC), Bangladesh’s first knowledge center exclusively for nature conservation studies.

 

WildTeam has a sister concern in the UK to support the Bangladesh work and to create a base to help save tigers and other wildlife internationally. Today, WildTeam employs over 90 staff, many of those are from the communities with whom we work to ensure we are working from within.

 

Md Samsul Huda, Technical Writer Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity (Bagh)

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